The queen of England has died. Queen Elizabeth II was 96, and is, for nearly everyone alive today, the only head of the monarchy for England they have known.
The queen’s death ends the longest reign in British history, nearly 70 years, and she was also the world’s oldest head of state.
As her death was announced by Buckingham Palace, a crowd had gathered near the Queen Victoria Memorial outside the palace, and a double rainbow appeared in the sky.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” Buckingham Palace said. Upon the queen’s death, her eldest son Charles, former Prince of Wales, has become the King of the United Kingdom and its 14 commonwealths.
The family had gathered at her bedside in the hours before her death at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland, and the Palace had signaled the gravity of her condition.
The queen, then Princess Elizabeth, had been the eldest of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, when, on a visit to Kenya, she learned of her father’s death.
“She became Queen while in a perch in a tree in Africa, watching the rhinoceros come down to the pool to drink,” wrote diplomat Harold Nicolson in his memoir.
She was crowned was Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, when she was 27 years old. She will be given a full state funeral befitting of a monarch. It’s also expected that her body will lie in state so the public can pay tribute.
Queen Elizabeth traveled the world on behalf of England and her royal duties.
“… her persona became only more towering as her personage dwindled. By instinct, constitution, and training, the Queen knew that what was demanded of her was an almost superhuman splitting of self. She was the hereditary ornament of the nation—as impractical as the Crown Jewels, with which her coronation had been celebrated. At the same time, her modus operandi was founded on a principle not of display but of concealment. For her own self-preservation, and for the preservation of the institution that she embodied and led, it was often wise to withdraw behind a gilded curtain,” The New Yorker wrote in its tribute.
Queen Elizabeth was born April 21, 1926 in the London home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, her maternal grandparents. At her birth, she was third in line to the throne, after Edward, the Prince of Wales.
“Edward became king, but he abdicated before the year was out, having provoked a constitutional crisis with his proposal to remain monarch while also marrying Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite. On May 12, 1937, the date that had originally been planned for Edward’s coronation, it was George V’s second son, Bertie, now formally known as George VI, who went to Westminster Abbey to be crowned and anointed,” the magazine wrote. Elizabeth was 11 years old when her father became king.
On a fuel stopover for her jet in 1975 as she was returning to London from a trip to Japan, she was in Anchorage briefly, but she did not leave the plane.