The longest-serving monarch in the history of the United Kingdom and the second-longest-serving monarch in history has passed away. Queen Elizabeth II was 96. The palace announced that the queen “died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.”
At her birth, Elizabeth was third in line to the throne, behind her uncle Edward and her father. When her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936, her father became King George VI.
From an early age, Elizabeth dedicated herself to a life of service, making speeches as a teenager and serving an honorary role in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II, where she learned to drive and do mechanical work on cars. On VE Day, she and her sister Margaret mingled with the crowds, going unrecognized among the throngs of exuberant celebrants. She later told an interviewer, “We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised…”
In 1947, she married Philip Mountbatten, Prince of Greece and Denmark, who became a British subject and was granted the title Duke of Edinburgh and later Prince. Their marriage lasted until his death in April 2021. They had four children, including Prince Charles, who now becomes king.
When George VI died of cancer in 1952, Elizabeth became queen. She and Philip were on a royal tour in Kenya when news of her father’s passing reached her. Over her seven decades on the throne, the UK and the rest of the world have undergone tremendous changes. Her 1953 coronation was the first one broadcast on television, and the immediacy of TV helped bring the monarchy a little closer to the people.
During her reign, the British Empire transformed into the Commonwealth of Nations, and her many travels to Commonwealth nations made her the most widely traveled head of state. She also ruled over many former colonies that became independent nations. Fifteen prime ministers served in government in the name of Queen Elizabeth, from Winston Churchill, who was prime minister when she ascended the throne, to Liz Truss, who became prime minister just days before the queen’s passing. She also met 13 of the last 14 American presidents, with Lyndon Johnson being the only one she did not meet.
As queen, she was, unfortunately, an absentee mother for all four of her children. Her duties kept her from taking a more active role in the lives of her children, which may have led to many of the problems and scandals they were involved in. On Thursday, one BBC anchor said that Elizabeth spent more time investing in her grandson William, who becomes Prince of Wales and the heir to the throne, than she did in her son Charles.
Elizabeth was also known for her deep, sincere Christian faith. She regularly attended church and had a friendship with Billy Graham. She never failed to mention the Christian meaning of Christmas in her annual speeches. However, under her leadership as head of the Church of England, the church has veered far down the road toward theological and political liberalism.
Queen Elizabeth passed away at Balmoral Castle, where she normally spent summers, surrounded by family. The British people will certainly miss her, as will people throughout the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who just took office on Tuesday, issued a statement from 10 Downing Street:
We are all devastated by the news that we have just heard from Balmoral. The death of Her Majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world. Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign. Britain is the great country it is today because of her.
She ascended the throne just after the Second World War. She championed the development of the Commonwealth, from a small group of seven countries, to a family of 56 nations, spanning every continent of the world. We are now a modern, thriving, dynamic nation.
Through thick and thin, Queen Elizabeth II provided us with the stability and the strength that we needed. She was the very spirit of Great Britain, and that spirit will endure. She has been our longest ever reigning monarch. It’s an extraordinary achievement to have presided with such dignity and grace for 70 years. Her long her life of service stretched beyond most of our living memories. In return, she was loved and admired by the people in the United Kingdom, and all around the world.
She has been a personal inspiration to me and to many Britons. Her devotion to duty is an example to us all. Earlier this week, at 96, she remained determined to carry out her duties as she appointed me as her 15th Prime Minister.
Throughout her life she has visited more than 100 countries, and she has touched the lives of millions around the world. In the difficult days ahead, we will come together with our friends across the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the world to celebrate her extraordinary lifetime of service. It is a day of great loss. But Queen Elizabeth II leaves a great legacy.
Today the crown passes as it has done for more than 1,000 years. To our new monarch, our new head of state, His Majesty, King Charles III. With the king’s family, we mourn the loss of his mother. And as we mourn, we must come together as a people to support him to help him by the awesome responsibility that he now carries for us all. We offer him our loyalty and devotion, just as his mother devoted so much to so many for so long and with the passing of the second Elizabethan age, we usher in a new era in the magnificent history of our great country, exactly as her Majesty would have wished, by saying the words, “God save the King.”
King Charles III issued a brief statement: