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Queen Elizabeth II Dies at 96 After 70 Years on the British Throne

Elizabeth's oldest child becomes King Charles III of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II spent 70 years on the throne.
Eddie Mulholland/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II has died at age 96. The longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-serving female head of state in history, the queen in 2022 celebrated her Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years on the throne.

"The queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon," the royal family said in a statement on Thursday. "The king and the queen consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow."

The queen's eldest son Charles, now King Charles III, also issued a statement following his mother's death. "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother," it reads. "I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world." 

The royal family issued a statement earlier on Thursday saying the queen was under medical supervision at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. "Operation London Bridge," a meticulous 10-day plan to address her death, has reportedly been in the works for years.

During her reign, the UK saw 15 different prime ministers, including the first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. The UK joined and then left the EU, and saw the devolution of power from Westminster to governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Britain became increasingly multicultural and went through the process of decolonization, while some Commonwealth countries became republics. The queen welcomed Britain's current prime minister, Liz Truss, on Sept. 6, just two days before she died.  

Queen Elizabeth II greets newly elected leader of the Conservative party Liz Truss in a sumptuously decorated room at Balmoral Castle.

Queen Elizabeth greets incoming UK Prime Minister Liz Truss at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, breaking with the tradition of meeting the new leader at Buckingham Palace in London.

Jane Barlow/Getty Images

Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in Mayfair, London, the queen was the first child of King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was educated at home alongside her sister, Margaret, and the two princesses spent their childhoods and teenage years living in royal residences across the UK.

They moved between the royal residences Balmoral Castle, Sandringham House and Windsor Castle during World War II to keep them safe from the Luftwaffe bombing raids. Toward the end of the war, when Elizabeth turned 18, she began to take on more public duties and trained as a driver and mechanic, earning the rank of honorary junior commander.

In November 1947, Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, her third cousin and a former prince of Greece and Denmark, at Westminster Abbey. The queen said she fell in love with Philip the first time she met him, aged just 13. Together, they had four children and remained married for 73 years until Philip's death in 2021.

A young Philip and Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth said she fell in love with Philip the first time she met him.

Getty Images

At the time of her birth, Elizabeth wasn't expected to take the throne, but following the abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII in 1936, her father became monarch, and she his heir presumptive.

Elizabeth was in Kenya on a royal tour in February 1952 when Philip broke the news to her that her father had died. The death of King George triggered her immediate accession to the throne. Her coronation took place the following year on June 2 at Westminster Abbey.

Elizabeth's popularity, and the popularity of the royal family more widely, oscillated during this time as press scrutiny of the personal lives and the vast wealth of the royal family became commonplace. The early '90s proved a turbulent time as the marriages of three of her children ended in divorce and a destructive fire tore through Windsor Castle. In 1997, she was criticized for her slow reaction to the death of Princess Diana, the former wife of her son Charles and mother to her grandchildren, Princes William and Harry.

Elizabeth rarely granted interviews throughout her life, taking great care to reveal little about her private life or political views. Instead, British and Commonwealth citizens learned about their monarch through her televised speeches, with her annual Christmas Day address proving particularly popular and factoring into many families' celebrations.

Along with her role as British head of state and commander of the armed forces, Elizabeth also served as queen of 14 other Commonwealth realms, Head of the Commonwealth and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She talked openly about her personal faith and the sense of religious responsibility that guided her. 

Beyond appointing prime ministers and meeting with them weekly, the sovereign has no political or executive role in the UK. Instead, her or his role is largely ceremonial and involves conducting constitutional and representational duties. Elizabeth was patron of more than 600 organizations and charities at the time of her death.

Outside of her royal duties, Elizabeth was a keen equestrian and could often be spotted riding in the grounds of Windsor outside London. In her leisure time, she bred thoroughbred racehorses, which went on to win well over 1,500 major races.

Family members often said she was happiest at her Scottish holiday home Balmoral, where she would spend each summer. Elizabeth spent her time on the estate breeding Shetland ponies, walking, driving and picnicking, often with her dogs in tow.

A black and white photo of Elizabeth II sitting on a bench with two corgis

1936: Elizabeth, aged 10, with corgis.

Lisa Sheridan/Getty Images

Elizabeth was known for her love of Pembroke Welsh corgis, a passion which began in childhood. During her reign, she owned more than 30 corgis. The dogs slept in their own room in Buckingham Palace, known as the corgi room.

Elizabeth's funeral is due to take place in nine days time at Westminster Abbey, following which she'll be buried in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor, the lasting resting place of several British monarchs.

Queen Elizabeth II is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.