Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state and the longest-reigning British monarch, has died.
She died on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Buckingham Palace said in a short statement. She was 96.
“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,” the palace said, in reference to the Queen’s son Charles, who automatically became king upon her death, and his wife, Camilla.
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/VfxpXro22W
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
Her husband, Prince Philip, died in April 2021.
Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, at the relatively tender age of 25, and presided over the country and the Commonwealth, including Canada, for seven decades. Those 70 years as monarch were recognized during this year’s Platinum Jubilee events, which reached their height in London in early June.
In her time as monarch, Elizabeth bore witness to profound changes at home and abroad, including the decline of the British Empire and decolonization of many African and Caribbean countries, along with the end of hostilities with Irish republicans.
As one of the most famous women in the world, she was also under great public scrutiny during some of the most painful moments of her life, including the death of her father, King George VI, the marriage breakups of three of her four children and the death of her former daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.
But Elizabeth always had a keen sense of her role.
“I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice,” she said during her first televised Christmas address in 1957. “But I can do something else: I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”
That sense of duty was central to her life, even before she ascended the throne. In a speech broadcast from Cape Town, South Africa, on her 21st birthday in 1947, she made that clear.
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she said.
The path to the throne
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born in London on April 21, 1926, the first child to Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Duke and Duchess of York. At the time of her birth, Elizabeth stood third in line of succession to the throne and was not expected to become monarch.
But that changed when her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 in order to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father became King George VI, making Elizabeth the presumptive heir.
Their wedding at London’s Westminster Abbey in 1947 was a grand event that helped lift the spirits of the British public at a time when it was still reeling from the destruction of the Second World War and the rationing that followed the end of the conflict.
The couple’s first child, Prince Charles, was born in 1948 and the second, Princess Anne, arrived two years later. (Another two children, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, were born in 1960 and 1964, and the family has now grown to include eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.)
King George VI died in 1952, at which point Elizabeth became Queen as well as head of the Church of England and the Commonwealth.
Although her grandmother, Queen Mary, died in February 1953, Elizabeth’s coronation went ahead that June. It was a lavish spectacle, and in a significant first, was televised worldwide to an audience estimated at 277 million.