Friday September 09, 2022
Queen Elizabeth dies at 96, ending an era for Britain
Queen Elizabeth II, Britainâ€™s longest-reigning monarch and a rock of stability across much of a turbulent century, died on Thursday after 70 years on the throne. She was 96.
Queen Elizabeth poses for a photograph at Balmoral Castle, Scotland. File / Reuters
The palace announced she died at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland, where members of the royal family had rushed to her side after her health took a turn for the worse.
A link to the almost-vanished generation that fought World War II, she was the only monarch most Britons have ever known.
World leaders paid homage to Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, after she died in her residence.
Pope Francis said he was deeply saddened by the news.
Her 73-year-old son Prince Charles automatically becomes king, though the coronation might not take place for months.
Britainâ€™s new king will be formally known as Charles III, his Clarence House residence confirmed on Thursday, after suggestions that queen Elizabeth IIâ€™s heir might have taken a different regnal name.
King Charles, will address the nation on Friday, his spokesman said.
The BBC played the national anthem, â€œGod Save the Queen,â€ over a portrait of her in full regalia as her death was announced, and the flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff as the second Elizabethan age came to a close.
The impact of her loss will be huge and unpredictable, both for the nation and for the monarchy, an institution she helped stabilise and modernise across decades of huge social change and family scandals.
The queenâ€™s life was indelibly marked by the war. As Princess Elizabeth, she made her first public broadcast in 1940 when she was 14, sending a wartime message to children evacuated to the countryside or overseas.
â€œWe children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage,â€ she said with a blend of stoicism and hope that would echo throughout her reign.
â€œWe are trying to do all we can to help out gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen. And we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.â€
Since Feb.6, 1952, Elizabeth reigned over a Britain that rebuilt from war and lost its empire; joined the European Union and then left it; and transformed from industrial powerhouse to uncertain 21st century society.
She endured through 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, becoming an institution and an icon â€” a fixed point and a reassuring presence even for those who ignored or loathed the monarchy.
She became less visible in her final years as age and frailty curtailed many public appearances. But she remained firmly in control of the monarchy and at the center of national life as Britain celebrated her Platinum Jubilee with days of parties and pageants in June 2022.
The same month she became the second longest-reigning monarch in history, behind 17th-century French King Louis XIV, who took the throne at age 4. On Sept.6, 2022, she presided at a ceremony at Balmoral Castle to accept the resignation of Boris Johnson as prime minister and appoint Truss as his successor.
When Elizabeth was 21, almost five years before she became queen, she promised the people of Britain and the Commonwealth that â€œmy whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.â€ It was a promise she kept across more than seven decades.
Despite Britainâ€™s complex and often fraught ties with its former colonies, Elizabeth was widely respected and remained head of state of more than a dozen countries, from Canada to Tuvalu. She headed the 54-nation Commonwealth, built around Britain and its former colonies.
Married for more than 73 years to Prince Philip, who died in 2021 at age 99, Elizabeth was matriarch to a royal family whose troubles were a subject of global fascination -- amplified by fictionalized accounts such as TV series â€œThe Crown.â€
She is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Through countless public events, she probably met more people than anyone in history. Her image, which adorned stamps, coins and banknotes, was among the most reproduced in the world.
But her inner life and opinions remained mostly an enigma. Of her personality, the public saw relatively little.
A horse owner, she rarely seemed happier than during the Royal Ascot racing week. She never tired of the companionship of her beloved Welsh corgi dogs.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in London on April 21, 1926, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. She was not born to be queen â€” her fatherâ€™s elder brother, Prince Edward, was destined for the crown, to be followed by any children he had.
But in 1936, when she was 10, Edward VIII abdicated to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, and Elizabethâ€™s father became King George VI.
Princess Margaret recalled asking her sister whether this meant that Elizabeth would one day be queen. â€â€™Yes, I suppose it does,â€˜â€ Margaret quoted Elizabeth as saying. â€œShe didnâ€™t mention it again.â€
Elizabeth was barely in her teens when Britain went to war with Germany in 1939. While the king and queen stayed at Buckingham Palace during the Blitz and toured the bombed-out neighborhoods of London, Elizabeth and Margaret spent most of the war at Windsor Castle, west of the capital. Even there, 300 bombs fell in an adjacent park, and the princesses spent many nights in an underground shelter.
In 1945, after months of campaigning for her parentsâ€™ permission to do something for the war effort, the heir to the throne became Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She enthusiastically learned to drive and service heavy vehicles.
On the night the war ended in Europe, May 8, 1945, she and Margaret managed to mingle, unrecognised, with celebrating crowds in London - â€œswept along on a tide of happiness and relief,â€ as she told the BBC decades later, describing it as â€œone of the most memorable nights of my life.â€
At Westminster Abbey in November 1947 she married Royal Navy officer Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark whom she had first met in 1939 when she was 13 and he 18. Postwar Britain was experiencing austerity and rationing, and so street decorations were limited and no public holiday was declared. But the bride was allowed 100 extra ration coupons for her trousseau.