Her Majesty The Queen dies aged 96

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96.

The longest serving monarch in British history passed away peacefully at her Balmoral Castle residence in Aberdeenshire.

The Royal Family confirmed the news at 6.30pm on Thursday, September 8, 2022, releasing a short statement reading: ‘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.’

HRH The Prince of Wales — who now becomes His Majesty King Charles III — was present at Balmoral, as was the Duchess of Cornwall. The Duke of Cambridge made his way to the castle on Thursday afternoon, as did the rest of The Queen’s immediate family as they went to the Aberdeenshire estate as their much-loved matriarch came to the end of her life.

‘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,’ The King said in a statement.

‘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, the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.

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The flag at Windsor Castle was flying at half mast at the time of the announcement — and in a quite extraordinary moment, a rainbow appeared over the ancient seat of power.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 08: The Union flag is lowered on Windsor Castle as a rainbow covers the sky on September 08, 2022 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

[SEE MORE: Images from the day Queen Elizabeth II died]

The Queen was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York on April 21, 1926, the eldest daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. At the time there was no prospect of her becoming the monarch, but that all changed when she was 10 years old in December 1936. Princess Elizabeth learned from a footman in her father’s London house at 145 Piccadilly that her uncle, King Edward VIII, had abdicated. This placed her father on the throne, taking the name George VI as he reluctantly accepted the role, and made Elizabeth the heiress presumptive.

Prince Philip holding Prince Charles and The Queen holding Princess Anne in a Royal Family portrait taken in 1951. Bettmann Archive via Getty

The Queen inherited the crown on the death of her father on February 6, 1952, by which time she was married with two young children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Her coronation came 16 months later on June 2, 1953.

In the years that followed, The Queen would have two more children, Andrew and Edward, eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 15 different prime ministers and dozens of dogs — many of which were descendants Susan, her first ever corgi, who she was given as an 18th birthday present in 1944.

She has also presided with endless grace, charm and good humour over a British Commonwealth whose inhabitants number 2.4 billion people — a third of the world’s population. It’s no exaggeration to say that all those people, as well as billions more around the world, will spare a thought and shed a tear — many tears — at the death of one of the great figures of the last century.