UK’s Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96

Elizabeth, one of the world’s longest-ruling monarchs in history, died at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II, the UK's longest-reigning royal and among the world's longest-ruling monarchs in history, has died at the age of 96 [File: Frank Augstein/pool/AFP]

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-reigning royal and among the world’s longest-ruling monarchs in history, has died at the age of 96.

The queen died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday.

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” it said in a statement.

“The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Elizabeth’s eldest son Charles, 73, automatically becomes king of the United Kingdom and the head of state of 14 other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. His wife Camilla becomes queen consort.

News that the queen’s health was deteriorating emerged on Thursday when her doctors said she was under medical supervision, prompting her family to rush to be by her side at Balmoral.

The queen had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace has called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements.

Prime Minister Liz Truss paid tribute to Elizabeth II and hailed the new monarch, King Charles III.

“Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign,” she said.

“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,” she said, adding: “We must come together as a people to support him, to help him bear the awesome responsibility that he now carries for us all.”

The 96-year-old marked her Platinum Jubilee on February 6 after ascending to the throne 70 years ago in 1952, following the death of her father King George VI.

Condolences from politicians and leaders around the world poured in as soon as news of her death emerged.

“As the United Kingdom’s longest-lived and longest-reigning Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II was widely admired for her grace, dignity, and dedication around the world,” said the UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“She was a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change, including the decolonisation of Africa and Asia and the evolution of the Commonwealth,”

European Council President Charles Michel spoke fondly of the queen’s “lasting values”.

“Our thoughts are with the royal family and all those who mourn Queen Elizabeth II in the UK and worldwide. Once called Elizabeth the Steadfast, she never failed to show us the importance of lasting values in a modern world with her service and commitment,” he said.

Elizabeth became monarch at a time when the UK still retained much of its old empire. It was emerging from the ravages of World War II, with food rationing still in force and class and privilege still dominant in society.

Winston Churchill was the UK’s prime minister at the time, Josef Stalin led the Soviet Union and the Korean War was raging.

In the decades that followed, Elizabeth witnessed massive political change and social upheaval at home and abroad. Her own family’s tribulations, most notably the divorce of Charles and his late first wife Diana, were played out in full public glare.

While remaining an enduring symbol of stability and continuity for Britons at a time of relative national economic decline, Elizabeth also tried to adapt the ancient institution of monarchy to the demands of the modern era.

“She has managed to modernise and evolve the monarchy like no other,” her grandson Prince William, who is now heir to the throne, said in a 2012 documentary.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies