Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history and an icon instantly recognized by billions of people around the world, died on Thursday at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace announced.
Charles, Prince of Wales, the eldest of her four children and the oldest heir apparent in British history at 73, becomes king immediately.
The queen died after the palace announced on Thursday that doctors were “concerned” about her health and advised her to remain under medical supervision.
All of her children flocked to her Scottish Highland retreat, Balmoral, including Charles, Princess Anne, 72, Prince Andrew, 62, and Prince Edward, 58.
Charles’ sons, Prince William and his estranged brother, Prince Harry, joined them.
Two days earlier, the queen named Liz Truss as her 15th prime minister, and she was photographed smiling but frail and using a walking stick.
One photograph from the meeting caused concern because it showed a deep purple bruise on the monarch’s right hand.
In the aftermath of World War II, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne at the age of 25, joining a world stage dominated by political figures ranging from China’s Mao Zedong to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Her reign spanned two centuries of seismic social, political, and technological change.
The last remnants of Britain’s vast empire fell apart. Brexit shook the foundations of her kingdom, and her family was embroiled in a series of scandals.
Throughout, she remained popular and served as queen and head of state not only of the United Kingdom, but also of 14 former British colonies, including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
She was also the head of the Commonwealth of 56 nations, which includes a quarter of the world’s population, and the supreme governor of the Church of England, the mother church of the worldwide Anglican communion.
However, questions will be raised about whether the British monarchy’s golden age has now passed, how an ancient institution can survive in the modern era, and whether Charles will command the same respect or reign in his mother’s shadow.
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