England mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II
The world’s most famous queen, Queen Elizabeth II, died on Thursday, 8 September, at 96 at her Scottish residence of Balmoral, ushering in a new era for the British crown to which she had dedicated her life.
The death of the sovereign, whose health had been deteriorating for a year, caused immense emotion in the United Kingdom and worldwide. Her son and heir acceded to the throne at 73 with the name Charles III.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and Queen consorts will remain at Balmoral this evening and return to London tomorrow,” Buckingham Palace said in a brief statement.
A symbol of stability, she has lived through the times and crises unperturbed. Since her father, George VI, died in 1952, when she was only 25, she has rubbed shoulders with Nehru, Charles de Gaulle and Mandela, who called her “my friend.
On the throne, she witnessed the construction and then the fall of the Berlin Wall and met 12 American presidents.
On Tuesday, 6 September, she appointed her 15th Prime Minister, Liz Truss, for the last photo, frail and smiling, leaning on a cane.
She fulfilled her role with an unshakable sense of duty throughout her 70-year reign, the longest in British history.
Through the crises her kingdom and the royal family have faced, she has retained the overwhelming support of Britons, who came in their tens of thousands to see her for a few minutes on the balcony of Buckingham Palace last June for her platinum jubilee, a farewell celebration of her 70 years of rule.
“I feel unfortunate, I feel like my grandmother has died,” said Tonnie Cunningham, 35, interviewed by AFP on the streets of London.
“She is the only monarch I have ever known,” observed Margaret Caselton, 75, “extremely sad.
Television and radio stations interrupted their programs to announce the death of the sovereign, who has been widowed since the death in April 2021 of her husband Philip.
Portraits of Elizabeth II with a benevolent smile appeared on the front pages of the British media. Goodnight Ma’am” reads The Sun. “The Queen dies peacefully at the age of 96, after 70 years of remarkable service, leaving Britain and the world in mourning,” writes the tabloid.
The Times paid tribute to the monarch, whose “reign was marked by an unwavering commitment to her people and country”. “Thank you Ma’am… for everything,” writes the Daily Mirror, while the Telegraph simply headlines: Royal family and nation in mourning.
“The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a time of great sadness for me and all members of my family,” the new King Charles III said in his first statement as sovereign. “We deeply mourn the loss of a beloved ruler and a beloved mother. I know that her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the kingdoms and the Commonwealth and by countless people worldwide.
Charles travelled to Balmoral in the morning as soon as the palace reported the monarch’s deteriorating health and was joined later in the day by his sister Anne and later in the afternoon by his brothers Andrew and Edward, accompanied by the new heir to the throne William. His wife Kate stayed in Windsor with their three children, who were starting school.
Prince Harry, Charles’ youngest son, arrived in the evening without his wife Meghan. The couple, who live in California, were due to attend a ceremony in London on Thursday evening.
On the steps of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister paid tribute to a sovereign “loved and admired throughout the world”. “The death of Her Majesty is a huge shock to the nation and the world,” she said, calling on Britons to “unite” behind the new king, with whom she first met.
Abroad, tributes poured in from political leaders and royalty. Emmanuel Macron hailed “a friend of France, a queen of the heart” who “forever marked her country and her century”. Last year, Joe Biden, who was received by Elizabeth II, paid tribute to “a stateswoman of incomparable dignity and constancy”, while Vladimir Putin emphasized her “authority on the world stage.”
A minute’s silence was observed at the UN Security Council. The Eiffel Tower did not twinkle every hour of the evening. Flags at the White House, US public buildings, embassies, military bases and warships will be flown at half-mast until the day of Elizabeth II’s funeral at sunset.
The sovereign death, who had limited appearances since a night in a hospital in October 2021 and admitted difficulties in getting around, opens a period of national mourning until her funeral in about ten days.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was not destined to become Queen at her birth on 21 April 1926. But at the end of 1936, her uncle Edward VIII abdicated, preferring to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman.
Elizabeth’s father became King George VI, and she became heir to the Crown. On 6 February 1952, on a trip to Kenya, she learned that her father had died of cancer at 56. She immediately returned to the UK and was crowned on 2 June 1953.
At the time of her death, Elizabeth II was head of state of 15 kingdoms, from New Zealand to the Bahamas, which she travelled throughout her reign, always wearing matching outfits, often in bright colours.