Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and a rock of stability across much of a turbulent century, died Thursday after 70 years on the throne. She was 96.
The palace announced she died at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland, where members of the royal family had rushed to her side after her health took a turn for the worse.
A link to the almost-vanished generation that fought World War II, she was the only monarch most Britons have ever known.
Her 73-year-old son Prince Charles automatically became king upon her death and will be known as King Charles III, his office announced. Charles’ second wife, Camilla, will be known as the Queen Consort.
The BBC played the national anthem, God Save the Queen, over a portrait of her in full regalia as her death was announced, and the flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff as the second Elizabethan age came to a close.
The impact of her loss will be huge and unpredictable, both for the nation and for the monarchy, an institution she helped stabilize and modernize across decades of huge social change and family scandals.
In a statement, Charles called the death of his mother a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family, adding: I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.
World leaders extended condolences and paid tribute to the queen.
In Canada, where the British monarch is the country’s head of state, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saluted her wisdom, compassion and warmth. In India, once the jewel in the crown of the British empire, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: She personified dignity and decency in public life. Pained by her demise.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss, appointed by the queen just 48 hours earlier, pronounced the country devastated and called Elizabeth the rock on which modern Britain was built.
Since Feb. 6, 1952, Elizabeth reigned over a Britain that rebuilt from war and lost its empire; joined the European Union and then left it; and transformed from industrial powerhouse to uncertain 21st century society. She endured through 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Truss, becoming an institution and an icon a fixed point and a reassuring presence even for those who ignored or loathed the monarchy.
She became less visible in her final years as age and frailty curtailed many public appearances. But she remained firmly in control of the monarchy and at the center of national life as Britain celebrated her Platinum Jubilee with days of parties and pageants in June 2022.
The same month she became the second longest-reigning monarch in history, behind 17th-century French King Louis XIV, who took the throne at age 4. On Tuesday, she presided at a ceremony at Balmoral Castle to accept the resignation of Boris Johnson as prime minister and appoint Truss as his successor.
When Elizabeth was 21, almost five years before she became queen, she promised the people of Britain and the Commonwealth that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.
It was a promise she kept across more than seven decades.
Despite Britain’s complex and often fraught ties with its former colonies, Elizabeth was widely respected and remained head of state of more than a dozen countries, from Canada to Tuvalu. She headed the 54-nation Commonwealth, built around Britain and its former colonies.
Married for more than 73 years to Prince Philip, who died in 2021 at age 99, Elizabeth was matriarch to a royal family whose troubles were a subject of global fascination amplified by fictionalized accounts such as TV series The Crown. She is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.