er Majesty the Queen, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, has died aged 96, Buckingham Palace has announced.
In a statement, the Palace said: “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.”
The flag at Buckingham Palace was lowered to half mast at 6.30pm as the announcement was made.
Elizabeth II, 96, was the nation’s longest-reigning monarch, serving as head of state for more than 70 years.
Charles, who became King on the death of his mother, issued a statement describing the death of “my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen” as 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,” he said.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, dressed in black, addressed the nation outside No 10 shortly after 7pm.
She said: “We are all devastated by the news that we have just heard from Balmoral.
“The death of Her Majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world.”
The new prime minister referred to Charles, the new King, as King Charles III, saying: “Today the Crown passes, as it has done for more than a thousand years, to our new monarch, our new head of state, his majesty King Charles III.”
Ms Truss said it was “the passing of the second Elizabethan age” and concluded her address by saying “God save the King”.
Former prime minister Boris Johnson said: “This is our country’s saddest day.”
He added: “In the hearts of every one of us there is an ache at the passing of our Queen, a deep and personal sense of loss – far more intense, perhaps, than we expected.
“In these first grim moments since the news, I know that millions and millions of people have been pausing whatever they have been doing, to think about Queen Elizabeth, about the bright and shining light that has finally gone out.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the Queen’s death is a “terrible loss for us all”, adding: “We will miss her beyond measure.”
European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: “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.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops. Conference of England and Wales, paid tribute to the Queen as a “shining light in our history”.
Elizabeth II, who reigned since February 6, 1952, marked her seven decades with this summer’s platinum jubilee celebrations.
The Queen mourned the loss of her beloved husband of 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died aged 99 in April 2021.
A figure of stability in national life, the Queen was head of state, the armed forces, the Commonwealth and the Church of England.
The majority of the population has known no other monarch.
It is understood that Charles — who became the monarch the moment the Queen died under the common law rule Rex Nunquam Moritur — travelled from Dumfries House by helicopter to be with his mother at Balmoral before her passing.
The death of the Queen now means Operation Unicorn — the plan dictating what happen should the Queen die in Scotland — is operational.
It is understood that parliamentary business will be suspended immediately for preparations for the Queen’s state funeral to start. Thousands are expected to make their way to Edinburgh to pay their respects, where they would be encouraged to gather around the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood Palace and St Giles’ Cathedral — all on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
As it stands the Queen’s body would initially rest at the Palace of Holyrood before her coffin is carried to St Giles’. Her body would then be placed on a royal train at Waverley station before travelling down the East Coast mainline to London. Operation London Bridge — the main plan for the Queen’s death — will run in parallel.
Books of condolence will be opened around the country and gun salutes will take place at saluting stations and a service of remembrance will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral. Five days after the Queen’s death the coffin will go to Westminster Hall and, after a service, lie in state for three days.
The state funeral will be at Westminster Abbey 10 days after her passing, after which her body will be buried at King George VI Memorial Chapel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, alongside the Duke of Edinburgh.
Final arrangements for the Queen’s lying-in-state and funeral must wait on the decisions of the new king.
The Duchess of Cornwall, as Charles’s spouse, automatically becomes Queen Consort. The Duke of Cambridge becomes heir to the throne and adds the Duke of Cornwall to his titles but does not become Prince of Wales.
Charles is expected to bestow the title on his eldest son William soon, but strictly speaking it must be gifted by the sovereign.
The Queen made Charles the Prince of Wales on July 26, 1958, six years after he became heir apparent. He had to wait another 11 years for his investiture, on July 1, 1969.
Broadcaster Huw Edwards delivered the news of the Queen’s death live on BBC One.
After an image of the flag at Buckingham Palace was shown at half mast, he told viewers: “A few moments ago Buckingham Palace announced the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
Edwards then read out the statement from Buckingham Palace which announced the news.
The broadcaster was dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, in line with the BBC’s dress code for when a member of the royal family dies as a mark of respect.
BBC One played the national anthem following the announcement, showing a photograph of the Queen, followed by a royal crest on a black background and the words Queen Elizabeth II.