It was officially announced today by Buckingham Palace that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died peacefully at her residence in Balmoral, Scotland, at the age of ninety-six. It is understood Her Majesty passed away in the early afternoon, and according to protocol, heads of government in fourteen realms the Queen was Head of State were first informed before the public. The first announcement came from Buckingham Palace at 6:30 p.m. UK time on the royal family’s social media page. It simply read: “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 post also acknowledged the passing of the succession to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales — now His Majesty the King. It is not presently known if the King will reign as Charles III or whether he may choose another regnal name. The news was met with surprise by the public, though it had been reported the Queen had been unwell recently with what was described as mobility issues. At the end of her life, Queen Elizabeth II was the world’s longest-serving Head of State, as well as the longest-lived.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on the 21st April 1926 to HRH The Duke of York and his wife HRH Elizabeth, Duchess of York, as HRH Princess Elizabeth of York. She was the first grandchild of the-then King George V to be directly in the line of succession after her uncle Edward the Prince of Wales, then her father. She immediately became the King’s favourite Grandchild and he had even described her as the hope and future of the throne. With his death in January 1936 and the accession of her uncle, the little Princess was now second in the line of succession, as her uncle had no children. As circumstances seemed to change rapidly that year, it was discovered the new King Edward VIII was in love with a woman deemed unsuitable to become his consort and in December of the same year, he stunned the world by abdicating the British throne. King Edward’s younger brother, the Duke of York, had now become King, and as a consequence, his eldest daughter was now Heir Presumptive.
During the Second World War, the royal family had been seen as a source of inspiration, strength, continuity and, of course, tradition. The young Princess Elizabeth, at the age of 19, joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). After joining, she trained as a driver and mechanic with the rank of Second Subaltern. Five months later, she was promoted to Junior Commander, which was the equivalent of Captain. The sight of the young Princess in uniform endeared her even more to the nation, who were enthralled to see her next to her father at Buckingham Palace for D-Day celebrations in May 1945. At the age of 21, Princess Elizabeth became engaged to the love of her life, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. He was bestowed with the title HRH Duke of Edinburgh by King George VI on the day they were married in November 1947 at Westminster Abbey in a glittering ceremony. Together, the royal couple welcomed four children, with their eldest child born in 1948 and their youngest in 1964. Settling into family life, it had been expected — or hoped — Princess Elizabeth might not have to step into the role of Sovereign for many years. Sadly, that was not to be. As she and her husband embarked on a goodwill tour to Australia in late January 1952, Princess Elizabeth received the heartbreaking news from her husband of the unexpected death of her father after just sixteen years on the throne. Princess Elizabeth, now HM Queen Elizabeth II, returned immediately to London and was famously met on the tarmac by her new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. At the age of just twenty-five, she immediately took up the responsibility of Head of State — a legacy and reign which would truly become historic not only for its duration but also because of the dedication Queen Elizabeth II showed to all her peoples who were part of the United Kingdom but also those who were part of the family of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on the 2nd June 1953, seated in St. Edward’s Chair, made in 1300 for Edward I and used at every Coronation since that time. Following the holy sacrament of the anointing of the sovereign by the Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Edward’s Crown, which was re-created in 1661 after the restoration of the Crown in the person of King Charles II, was placed on the head of Her Majesty during the Coronation service. It was this very moment when the nation and realms of the British Sovereign recognised the authority and majesty of the Queen. During her extraordinary reign of seventy years, Queen Elizabeth II became a figure of national pride and a symbol of stability and continuity who was respected around the world. Known for her quiet, restrained demeanour, she would go on to guide both her family and the United Kingdom through a period of extraordinary social change.
Queen Elizabeth II will be especially remembered for her words in 1947 during a state visit with her parents to the Union of South Africa, at which time, she publicly dedicated her life — be it long or short — to serving the peoples of the British nation and Commonwealth. The Queen will also be well-remembered for her dedication to keeping the institution of the Crown relevant. Her Majesty displayed an adaptability that many will credit with securing the future of the monarchy. The late Queen was often described as having an understated charisma, a restrained style of leadership, and an ability to always ask the right questions to encourage others to talk and feel listened to.
This year, the United Kingdom and many countries around the world joined in the celebrations marking her seventieth year on the throne, a milestone never achieved by any other English or British monarch. The Platinum Jubilee gave the public a chance to show their admiration and affection for the woman who, three-quarters of the British and Commonwealth public had only ever known as their Sovereign. Her last official duty was last Tuesday in Balmoral, when she received the credentials of her fifteenth British Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Of course, dedicated coin and banknote collectors will remember Queen Elizabeth II fondly as it was her image, effigy, and likeness which became etched on every coin, every banknote, and every stamp from the United Kingdom since her accession — as well as many other nations who recognised her as their Head of State. A statement from the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom was released from the office of Anne Jessop, CEO, Thursday evening, who expressed her condolences and heartfelt sympathy from everyone at the Royal Mint at the death of Her Majesty to the Royal family. Ms. Jessop noted the remarkable legacy of Britain’s longest-serving monarch will live on for many years to come.
In terms of protocol, it is expected there will be ten official days of mourning. On the first day, ceremonial gun salutes are expected at Hyde Park and at Tower Hill, along with a national minute’s silence which is expected to be held. King Charles would be expected to conduct his first audience with the prime minister. He will also meet the Earl Marshal to officially sign off on the full funeral plans, with the state funeral expected to be held in ten days’ time. King Charles will give a broadcast to the country and the Commonwealth later this week. The Queen’s state funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey, with further details to be released in the coming days.