Queen Elizabeth II, who held the British throne since 1952 and was the country’s longest-reigning monarch, has died. She was 96.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” reads a tweet from the official Royal Family account posted on Thursday afternoon. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
Shortly thereafter, Buckingham Palace issued the following statement on behalf of her son Charles, who will go by King Charles III in the wake of Elizabeth’s death:
The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family. We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.
The news comes just hours after Elizabeth’s health grew concerning on Thursday morning, at which point she had been placed under medical supervision by her doctors.
Elizabeth took the throne in February 1952, succeeding her father, King George VI, immediately after he passed away. During her multi-decade reign, she completed thousands of public engagements and was a patron of hundreds of charities and organizations. Despite her considerable time in the public eye, though, the queen rarely gave interviews and was typically private about her own convictions. In October 2021, following a brief hospital stay (and, later, a sprained back), Elizabeth began to carry out fewer in-person visits and events; her public appearances became even less frequent after she contracted COVID in February of this year.
On Feb. 6, the queen celebrated 70 years on the throne, making her the first British monarch to reach a Platinum Jubilee; celebratory events have been held in her honor throughout the year, which culminated with a four-day holiday weekend in the U.K. from June 2 to June 5. Prior to that, in 2017, she was the first British monarch to observe a Sapphire Jubilee, marking a 65-year reign. In 2015, she officially became the longest-reigning British monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria.
Elizabeth experienced her share of turbulence throughout the years. Most recently and notably, the British royal family received backlash for its alleged treatment of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, details of which came out during the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. Two days after the Q&A aired, a statement from Buckingham Palace was made on the queen’s behalf, reading, “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
During her time in power, Elizabeth was portrayed often in pop culture. On Netflix’s The Crown, she’s thus far been played by Claire Foy (Seasons 1 and 2) and Olivia Colman (Seasons 3 and 4), both of whom won Primetime Emmys for their work; Imelda Staunton will take over for the final two seasons. Helen Mirren also took home an Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth in 2006’s The Queen, which chronicled the royal family’s public and private responses to Princess Diana’s untimely death.
Elizabeth is survived by her four children — Charles, Prince of Wales; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex; and Anne, Princess Royal — and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, passed away at age 99 in 2021.