Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history and an icon instantly recognisable to billions of people around the world, has died aged 96, Buckingham Palace said on Thursday.
Her eldest son, Charles, 73, succeeds as king immediately, according to centuries of protocol, beginning a new, less certain chapter for the royal family after the queen’s record-breaking 70-year reign.
The new King will officially be known as King Charles III, it has been officially confirmed.
“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,” King Charles said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
The Queen’s death came after the palace announced on Thursday that doctors were “concerned” for her health and recommended she stayed under medical supervision.
All her children – Charles, Princess Anne, 72, Prince Andrew, 62, and Prince Edward, 58, flocked to her Scottish Highland retreat, Balmoral.
They were joined by Charles’s sons, Prince William, and his estranged brother Prince Harry.
Two days earlier the Queen appointed Liz Truss as the 15th Prime Minister of her reign and was seen smiling in photographs but looking frail and using a walking stick.
Her 70-year reign straddled two centuries of seismic social, political and technological upheaval.
The last vestiges of Britain’s vast empire crumbled. At home, Brexit shook the foundations of her kingdom, and her family endured a series of scandals.
But throughout, she remained consistently popular and was queen and head of state not just of the United Kingdom but 14 former British colonies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
She was also head of the 56-nation Commonwealth, which takes in a quarter of humanity, and supreme governor of the Church of England, the mother church of the worldwide Anglican communion.
But questions will be asked about whether the golden age of the British monarchy has now passed, how an ancient institution can remain viable in the modern era and whether Charles will command the same respect or reign in his mother’s shadow.
Charles’ coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic surroundings, as it has for centuries, on a date to be fixed.