The nation’s longest-reigning monarch passed away aged 96 at her private royal residence in the Scottish Highlands, one of her favourite places, on Thursday afternoon. Members of the Royal Family made their way to Balmoral as it became clear that she had taken a turn for the worst.
Only Charles, Camilla and Princess Anne, who were already in Scotland, are understood to have made it in time to be at her side, as Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie dashed north of the border.
In a statement at 6.30pm on Thursday, Buckingham 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.”
Charles has become King Charles III having acceded to the throne immediately on the death of his mother and Camilla is now Queen Consort.
It comes as the UK has entered a period of national mourning for the beloved Queen, who dedicated her life to royal duty and for most Britons is the only monarch they have ever known, with crowds gathering outside Buckingham Palace in central London last night.
In a statement, Charles said: “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.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Palace shared a rare update saying doctors were concerned about the head of state’s health.
A statement just after 12.30pm said: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.”
An RAF plane landed in Aberdeen just before 4pm carrying the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Prince William drove the royals as part of a fleet of cars which arrived at Balmoral soon after 5pm.
Prince Harry, who is currently in the UK with Meghan Markle, travelled separately and arrived at Balmoral at around 8pm after cancelling an appearance at a charity event in London on Thursday night.
A spokesman for the couple initially said the Duchess of Sussex was joining her husband but it was later confirmed he was making the journey alone.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cambridge remained in Windsor with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis who had their first full day at their new school.
Behind the scenes, the long-held London Bridge plans for the Queen’s death are being put into action, setting out the next 11 days according to a strict timetable which will feature a lying in state before a state funeral.
Crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace last night in an outpouring of grief and love. People sang the national anthem with some weeping when officials carried a notice confirming the Queen’s death to the gates and the flag was lowered to half-mast.
Floral tributes and candles have been left at the London royal residence, as well as Windsor Castle and Balmoral.
Concern for the Queen’s health had been heightened in the past year but escalated yesterday following the Palace’s statement.
She had been suffering from ongoing mobility issues and rarely carried out engagements outside of her royal residences in recent months. Buckingham Palace had declined to give an ongoing commentary on the monarch’s health.
The Queen looked bright but frail when she appointed Liz Truss as Prime Minister at Balmoral on Tuesday. It was a busy day for the head of state who also accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson at her Aberdeenshire residence, where she was spending her annual summer break.
The Queen postponed a virtual Privy Council meeting on Wednesday after being advised by royal doctors to rest.
Ms Truss said the monarch’s death was a “huge shock to the nation and the world” in an address outside No 10 yesterday evening, which she ended by saying: “God save the King”.
Tributes to the monarch poured in from around the world following the announcement.
Former prime minister Mr Johnson said Britain is enduring its “saddest day” following the death of “Elizabeth the Great”. He was among the six living ex-premier’s to pay tribute.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said his “prayers are with the King and the Royal Family” as he mourns the death of the Queen, whose “steadfast loyalty, service and humility has helped us make sense of who we are”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Above the clashes of politics, she stood not for what the nation fought over, but what it agreed upon. As Britain changed rapidly around her, this dedication became the still point of our turning world.
“So as our great Elizabethan era comes to an end, we will honour the late Queen’s memory by keeping alive the values of public service she embodied.”
Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson said the Queen was “the most incredible mother-in-law and friend” to her and she would miss her “more than words can express”.
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said the Queen was “more than a monarch” and that she “defined an era”, while French leader Emmanuel Macron said she was “a friend of France”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted: “It is with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the people, we extend sincere condolences to the Royal Family, the entire United Kingdom and the Commonwealth over this irreparable loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Pope Francis said: “I willingly join all who mourn her loss in praying for the late Queen’s eternal rest, and in paying tribute to her life of unstinting service to the good of the nation and the Commonwealth.”
Leaders from other countries the Queen is head of state of including Australia, New Zealand and Canada also shared tributes. Former US President Donald Trump said the world is in mourning following the monarch’s death.
Even Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute, saying the Queen “rightfully enjoyed the love and respect of her subjects, as well as authority on the world stage”. It comes after the monarch celebrated her historic Platinum Jubilee milestone of 70 years on the throne this year.
During the celebrations in June, she only travelled to Buckingham Palace twice, making appearances on the balcony for Trooping the Colour and the pageant finale to the delight of royal fans. The Queen had been mainly based at Windsor Castle since the Covid pandemic struck back in March 2020.
She spent a night in hospital for tests last October and missed a series of key royal engagements after being ordered by doctors to rest. She caught Covid in February and experienced mild cold-like symptoms, later revealing that the virus left her feeling “very tired and exhausted”.
The Queen is the only British monarch to have celebrated a Platinum Jubilee with her reign stretching from the post-war years into the 21st century.
She used her Jubilee milestone to set her affairs in order, backing former royal mistress Camilla to be Queen Consort when Charles is King. However, she faced royal troubles in recent years including Megxit and the scandal over Prince Andrew.
And the Queen’s beloved husband Prince Philip, who she was married to for 73 years and described as her “strength and stay”, died in April 2021. She poignantly sat along for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral due to Covid restrictions at the time.
A figure of stability in national life, the Queen was head of state, the armed forces, the Commonwealth and the Church of England. She saw 15 prime ministers come and go during her seven decades on the throne.
She was one of the most famous women in the world, known for her colourful outfits and regal wave as well as her love of horse racing and corgis.
Alongside her royal duties, she was also a mother of four, grandmother to eight and great-grandmother of 12 great-grandchildren.
Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York in 1926, she was never expected to be Queen but her uncle Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, leaving her father as King George VI.
On her 21st birthday, she vowed in a radio broadcast that “my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service”. The princess was just 25 when she became Queen in 1952.
She brought the four-day Jubilee festivities earlier this year to a close with a message renewing her commitment to serve as monarch “to the best of my ability, supported by my family”.
The new King will hold his first audience with the Prime Minister on Friday before addressing the nation on television in the evening.
Charles will formally be proclaimed as sovereign at a historic Accession Council on Saturday. Heir to the throne William and Kate are now styled the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge.
The Royal Family’s website initially displayed a black background with an image of the Queen on her coronation day in 1953. The page also showed a white royal crest and the monarch’s year of birth and year of death – 1926 to 2022.
It has since been updated to list Charles as His Majesty The King.