Unease grew Thursday amid the news that Queen Elizabeth II, the 96-year-old monarch who had reigned for seven decades, had been placed under medical supervision by her doctors. Just a few hours later, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch had died.
Members of the royal family had traveled to Scotland to be by her side at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence, after her health took a downward turn. Her death means that her eldest son Charles, formerly the Prince of Wales, is now the king. He will be known as King Charles III, royal officials said.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
Here is everything we know so far about the situation.
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/VfxpXro22W
Members of the royal family traveled to be by the queen’s side
News of the queen’s worsening medical condition arrived on the heels of her canceling a virtual meeting of her Privy Council after doctors advised her to rest following a packed schedule on Tuesday, when she formally asked Liz Truss — who succeeded Boris Johnson — to be prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Many members of the royal family traveled to the queen’s bedside at Balmoral Castle, the Scottish estate near Aberdeen, to see her, the BBC reported. Among those who arrived included Charles and his wife, Camilla, and the queen’s younger sons, Edward and Andrew, along with grandson Prince William, who is now first in line to the throne. Princess Anne, the queen’s daughter, was already at Balmoral.
Early reports said that Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were traveling to Scotland to be at the queen’s side. The BBC later clarified that Harry was “traveling alone.” Prince William’s wife Kate also stayed behind with their children as school began. The couple will now be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Cornwall, a change reflected on their official Twitter account.
A statement from His Majesty The King: pic.twitter.com/AnBiyZCher— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
Charles called the death of his “beloved Mother” a “moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” in a statement after the news broke. During this “period of mourning and change,” he continued, the family will find comfort in knowing the “respect and deep affection” with which the queen was held.
“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-beloved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world,” he said.
It was unusual for Buckingham Palace to release a statement on her health
The BBC initially reported Thursday that the palace is typically “unwilling” to provide any sort of status update or commentary on medical matters that involved the queen. The fact that Buckingham Palace released a statement about the queen’s health early Thursday was highly unusual and quickly drew international attention.
Barriers were placed outside “one of the entrances to the estate” in Scotland, and early on BBC One suspended all regular programming to focus on the queen’s deteriorating health. As her death was announced, the network played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” over a portrait of her in full regalia, the Associated Press reported.
A statement is posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II:— The Recount (@therecount) September 8, 2022
“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.” pic.twitter.com/C3sRkn70fT
Rainbow at Buckingham Palace. pic.twitter.com/qHNJMcj5UH— Andy Lines (@andylines) September 8, 2022
There was total silence outside Buckingham Palace as the news broke, and then the crowds broke into song: God Save the King. pic.twitter.com/6kCUNSLw68— Anna Stewart (@annastewartcnn) September 8, 2022
Pictures also showed a sign outside of the courtyard of Buckingham Palace on Thursday in London that read, “No guard changing ceremony today.” It later posted an official statement about the queen’s death on the gates, noting she had “died peacefully.” The palace lowered the flag to half-staff.
Crowds outside the palace swelled before news of her death broke. Afterward, pictures and video on social media showed that two rainbows appeared near the Queen Victoria Memorial. People also sang the national anthem.
The official website for the royal family has since gone black, only featuring a portrait of the queen and a statement about the news of her death. The website will be temporarily unavailable while “appropriate changes” are made, according to the statement.
Britain’s new prime minister and others offered support, then condolences
Word of the queen’s condition spread rapidly, and shortly after the news of the queen’s worsening condition broke, several prominent figures issued statements expressing their support for and admiration of her.
Parliament was in the middle of a debate at the time, following Truss’s announcement of a sweeping package to help manage the energy crisis. Truss left the House of Commons chamber “grave-faced” shortly after an “aide whispered” in her ear, the New York Times reported.
“I know I speak on behalf of the entire House when I say that we send our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen and that she and the royal family are in our thoughts and prayers at this moment,” said the speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, after the palace released its statement on the queen’s health.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle interrupted the Commons energy debate to tell MPs: “I know I speak on behalf of the entire House when I say that we send our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen and that she and the royal family are in our thoughts and prayers at this moment.” pic.twitter.com/4KWNEHvQ6W— ITV News (@itvnews) September 8, 2022
Following the announcement of the queen’s death, Truss referred to her as “the rock on which modern Britain was built,” and said that the country had “grown and flourished” under her rule. In an address outside 10 Downing St., she also called on people to support King Charles III.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, released a statement saying that he was joining the world in mourning her loss. He said his prayers were with the king and the royal family.
“May God draw near them and comfort them in the days, weeks, and months ahead,” he said in a statement. “As we grieve together, we know that, in losing our beloved Queen, we have lost the person whose steadfast loyalty, service, and humility has helped us make sense of who we are through decades of extraordinary change in our world, nation, and society.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, said he was “heartbroken in our loss,” but added that despite his sorrow, “I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude for the gift to the world that has been the life of Queen Elizabeth II.”
Leaders worldwide also expressed their condolences for the queen as the news of her death reverberated across the globe, touching on her legacy and memorable moments they shared with her.
President Biden released a statement with First Lady Jill Biden saying that the queen was “more than a monarch,” and instead “defined an era” with her steadying presence.
Former president Barack Obama also released a statement with wife, Michelle, saying that they were grateful to have witnessed the queen’s “dedicated leadership, and we are awed by her legacy of tireless, dignified public service.”
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II pic.twitter.com/Acp3xy5kH4— Liz Truss (@trussliz) September 8, 2022
With profound sadness, I join the nation, the Commonwealth and the world in mourning the death of Her Late Majesty The Queen.https://t.co/LKHdaJQYgN pic.twitter.com/Ka89dFDMfU— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) September 8, 2022
We are heartbroken in our loss at death of Her Majesty The Queen.— Cardinal Nichols (@CardinalNichols) September 8, 2022
Even in sorrow, I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude for the gift to the world that has been the life of Queen Elizabeth II. We pray for the repose of the soul of Her Majesty https://t.co/512dCAdqvM
The death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth is a profoundly sad moment for the UK, the Commonwealth and the world.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 8, 2022
Her life was one of extraordinary dedication and service.
On behalf of the people of Scotland, I convey my deepest condolences to The King and the Royal Family. https://t.co/o2XqGJMF2S
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embodied the British nation’s continuity and unity for over 70 years. I remember her as a friend of France, a kind-hearted queen who has left a lasting impression on her country and her century.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) September 8, 2022
Her unwavering service to the country and the Commonweath for 70 years were remarkable not just for their length but for her fortitude and graciousness throughout.— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) September 8, 2022
A remarkable woman who lived a life of devotion and service.
My thoughts are with her family at this time. https://t.co/KNvnEpVMdL
It is with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the 🇺🇦 people, we extend sincere condolences to the @RoyalFamily, the entire United Kingdom and the Commonwealth over this irreparable loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) September 8, 2022
Like so many of you, Michelle and I are grateful to have witnessed Her Majesty’s dedicated leadership, and we are awed by her legacy of tireless, dignified public service. Our thoughts are with her family and the people of the United Kingdom at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/sbID222iSQ— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 8, 2022
Our statement on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. pic.twitter.com/0n7pmVVg2w— President Biden (@POTUS) September 8, 2022
#Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, offers condolences, calling Queen Elizabeth "the central protagonist of world history of the past 70 years, representing the UK & Commonwealth with balance, wisdom, respect for institutions & democracy...the most loved symbol of her country" pic.twitter.com/3HJxiSB7nU— Mark Lowen (@marklowen) September 8, 2022
I had memorable meetings with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during my UK visits in 2015 and 2018. I will never forget her warmth and kindness. During one of the meetings she showed me the handkerchief Mahatma Gandhi gifted her on her wedding. I will always cherish that gesture. pic.twitter.com/3aACbxhLgC— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 8, 2022
Please read my full statement: https://t.co/sSk2HuzYXx— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 8, 2022
The queen had receded from public view in recent years
Over the past few years, concern had grown over the queen’s health. She canceled many public appearances and stopped traveling outside Britain several years ago, the New York Times reported. Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, died in April of last year.
The queen skipped most of her other celebrations during the Platinum Jubilee in June. She also missed the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in June, CNN reported.
She had been planning for her succession for a period of time. Earlier this year, during the 70th anniversary of her accession to the British throne, the queen said that she wanted Camilla to be known as “queen consort” when Charles was named king, the Washington Post reported. He will now reign, and Camilla will be officially known as the queen consort.
Throughout her reign, the queen built a strong bond with the public. Many took to social media to offer their thoughts in the wake of the news. The impact of her loss will likely have significant implications and is already being felt on a global scale.
Shannon Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.