LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of the United Kingdom and head of the Commonwealth, has died at age 96, Buckingham Palace announced.
The queen died on Thursday as members of her immediate family rushed to be by her side, including her son and heir, Prince Charles.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” the statement read. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
A statement from Charles, now His Majesty The King, issued a statement shortly after the news broke of his mother’s death. “The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the statement read. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”
Earlier Thursday, the palace announced royal doctors were concerned over her health and placed her “under medical supervision” at her residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The day before, the 96-year-old queen pulled out of a virtual Privy Council meeting after her doctors advised her to rest.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff following the queen’s death.
On Tuesday, the queen fulfilled her final official engagement as she swore in Liz Truss as prime minister — the 15th prime minister in her 70-year-long reign. It was the first time the handover took place at Balmoral and not the queen’s official residence of Buckingham Palace, as the queen moved to her retreat in Aberdeenshire during the summer due to ongoing mobility issues.
Upon the announcement, Prince Charles, the former Prince of Wales, has immediately become king. His title will be passed down to his son Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. However, Charles won’t be officially named until Friday — one day after the death of the monarch.
The queen’s husband, Prince Philip, died at age 99 in April 2021, two years after he retired from his royal duties. He was the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family. He and Queen Elizabeth had four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
In her final months, the queen experienced a number of health setbacks. In February, Buckingham Palace confirmed that she had tested positive for COVID-19. The monarch was moved to “light duties” for the week that followed. In the weeks leading up to her Jubilee celebrations in early June, the 96-year-old took part in fewer public events due to mobility issues and was forced to miss a service celebrating her 70-year reign because of “some discomfort.”
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952 when she was just 25 years old, marking the longest reign of any monarch in British history. In 2015, she surpassed the record held by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who spent 62 years on the throne.
This year she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, making her the second-longest serving monarch in world history, following France’s King Louis XIV, who ruled for 72 years and 110 days.
In those 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II oversaw 15 prime ministers, including Winston Churchill, the World War II statesman, and Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister. Over the seven decades, she lived through several historic moments including the Second World War — she was the last surviving head of state to have served in the war — and the independence of over 20 nations in Africa and the Caribbean from the United Kingdom.
The queen also served as monarch during the terms of 13 American presidents and met 12 of them. According to the White House Historical Association, she never met Lyndon Johnson, but her sister Princess Margaret did during an official visit to the White House in 1965.
It has been reported that Prince Charles will become King Charles III — coming after King Charles I, who reigned from 1625 to 1649, and King Charles II who reigned for 25 years from 1660 to 1685. However, the Prince of Wales can choose his own title using any other Christian name from his full name, Charles Philip Arthur George.