…As Prince Charles Finally Becomes King
AMINA BRAI OMOIKE
Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, on Thursday afternoon, died at her Balmoral Estate after a 70-year reign. She was 96.
Her family gathered at her Scottish estate after concerns grew about her health earlier on in the day.
The Queen ascended the throne before her 26th birthday in 1952 being the youngest queen in British history.
Following her death, her eldest son Charles, the former Prince of Wales, will finally be crowned King and head of state for 14 Commonwealth realms.
In a statement, 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.”
All the Queen’s children had travelled to Balmoral, near Aberdeen, after doctors placed the Queen under medical supervision.
Her grandsons, Prince William and Prince Harry were also there.
Queen Elizabeth II’s tenure as head of state spanned post-war austerity, the transition from empire to Commonwealth, the end of the Cold War and the UK’s entry into – and withdrawal from – the European Union.
During her reign, Queen Elizabeth saw 15 prime ministers including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Gordon, Brown, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss who she sworn in on Monday this week.
At Buckingham Palace in London, crowds awaiting updates on the Queen’s condition began crying as they heard of her death. The Union flag on top of the palace was lowered to half-mast at 6.30pm.
Originally christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, the late Queen was born in Mayfair, London, on 21st April, 1926 as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). Her father acceded to the throne in 1936 upon the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, making Elizabeth the heir presumptive.
She was schooled privately at home and began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
She met Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and in 1937. She met him again at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939 where Elizabeth then only 13 years old fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters. Their engagement was officially announced in July 1947.
Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, officially converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother’s British family. Shortly before the wedding, he was named Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style His Royal Highness.
The wedding took place at the Westminster Abbey in November 1947.
The Duke of Edinburgh was at the Queen’s side for more than 69 years of her reign, becoming the longest-serving consort in British history.
She would later describe him as “my strength and stay” through 74 years of marriage, before his death in 2021, aged 99.
Elizabeth’s first child, Prince Charles (now King of England), was born in 1948. A second child and first daughter, Princess Anne (Princess Royal), was born in 1950. Prince Andrew (Duke of York) was born in 1960 while Prince Edward (Earl of Wessex) was born in 1964.
The Queen had eight grandchildren including the heir apparent, Prince William and 12 great grandchildren.
Ascension to the throne
Elizabeth’s father became King George VI and, at age 10, she became heir to the throne. After turning 18, Elizabeth spent five months with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and learned basic motor mechanic and driving skills.
George VI’s health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya. On February 6, 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home, Sagana Lodge, after a night spent at Treetops Hotel, when word arrived of the death of George VI and Elizabeth’s consequent accession to the throne with immediate effect.
The coronation ceremony took place in 1953 at the Westminster Abbey. It was televised for the first time with the exception of the anointing and communion. Over 20 million people watched the ceremony across the world. On Elizabeth’s instruction, her coronation gown was embroidered with the floral emblems of Commonwealth countries.
Elizabeth reformed the monarchy engaging with the public through walkabouts, royal visits and attendance at public events. Her commitment to the Commonwealth was a constant – she visited every Commonwealth country at least once.
The year 1992 was marked as the ‘Queen’s annus horribilis’. That year, fire gutted Windsor Castle – a private residence as well as working palace – destroying over 100 rooms.
Also, the marriages of three out of her four children broke. Charles married Diana in 1981 and in 1992, they announced their decision to separate and were divorced in 1996. He then remarried Camilla in 2005 and they’ve been together since then.
Anne got married to Mark Phillips in 1973 and divorced him in 1992. She remarried Timothy Laurence in 1992.
Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in 1986 and also announced their separation. They got divorced 10 years later.
After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car accident in Paris in 1997, the Queen was publicily criticised for initially remaining at her estate in Balmoral, Scotland, and refusing to allow the flag to fly at half-mast over Buckingham Palace or address the grieving nation. She however revised her stance on the flag, returned to London to greet crowds of mourners and delivered a rare televised address to a nation devastated by the loss of the “People’s Princess.”
World leaders react to the Queen’s death
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres:
“As the United Kingdom’s longest-lived and longest-reigning Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II was widely admired for her grace, dignity, and dedication around the world. She was a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change, including the decolonization of Africa and Asia and the evolution of the Commonwealth.
“Queen Elizabeth II was a good friend of the United Nations, and visited our New York Headquarters twice, more than 50 years apart. She was deeply committed to many charitable and environmental causes and spoke movingly to delegates at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.
“I would like to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II for her unwavering, lifelong dedication to serving her people. The world will long remember her devotion and leadership.”
U.S. President Joe Biden And Jill Biden:
“In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her. Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
“It was with the heaviest of hearts that we learned of the passing of Canada’s longest-reigning Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was a constant presence in our lives – and her service to Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country’s history.”
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo:
“The Ghanaian people have very fond memories of the two visits she made to Ghana during her reign, and, on both occasions, we remember the friendliness, elegance, style and sheer joy she brought to the performance of her duties.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:
“I know that I speak for people across New Zealand in offering our deepest sympathy to members of the Royal Family at the passing of the Queen. To us she was a much admired and respected monarch, to them she was a mother and grandmother.”
“The Queen was a much loved and admired monarch, whose record reign of 70 years is an absolute testament to her, and her commitment to us all. She was extraordinary.”
U.S. House Of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
“Today, Americans join the people of the United Kingdom in mourning the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Over her seven decades on the throne, Her Majesty was a pillar of leadership in the global arena and a devoted friend of freedom.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch Mcconnell:
“For 70 long years, from the aftermath of World War II well into the 21st century, across 15 different Prime Ministers, through great triumphs and great challenges, the Queen’s steady leadership safeguarded the land she loved. Despite spending nearly three quarters of a century as one of the most famous and admired individuals on the planet, the Queen made sure her reign was never really about herself — not her fame, not her feelings, not her personal wants or needs. She guided venerable institutions through modern times using timeless virtues like duty, dignity, and sacrifice. She offered our contemporary world a living master class it needed badly.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump And Former First Lady Melania Trump:
“Queen Elizabeth’s historic and remarkable reign left a tremendous legacy of peace and prosperity for Great Britain. Her leadership and enduring diplomacy secured and advanced alliances with the United States and countries around the world.”
Former U.S. President Barack Obama:
“Michelle and I were lucky enough to come to know Her Majesty, and she meant a great deal to us.”
“Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humor and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance.”
Former U.S. President George W. Bush:
“Laura and I were honored to have known Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was a woman of great intellect, charm, and wit. Spending time at Buckingham Palace, and having tea with Her Majesty – and her Corgis – is among our fondest memories of the presidency. Queen Elizabeth ably led England through dark moments with her confidence in her people and her vision for a brighter tomorrow. Our world benefitted from her steady resolve, and we are grateful for her decades of service as sovereign. Americans in particular appreciate her strong and steadfast friendship.”
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Royal Family and all the people Her Majesty inspired throughout her lifetime of service.”
European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen:
“It is with deep sadness that I have learned of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was the world’s longest serving Head of State and one of the most respected personalities worldwide. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family and the British people.”
French President Emmanuel Macron:
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embodied the British nation’s continuity and unity for over 70 years. I remember her as a friend of France, a kind-hearted queen who has left a lasting impression on her country and her century.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy:
“It is with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the UA people, we extend sincere condolences to the @RoyalFamily, the entire United Kingdom and the Commonwealth over this irreparable loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Uae’s President Mohamed Bin Zayed:
“Her Majesty was a close friend of the UAE and a beloved & respected leader whose long reign was characterised by dignity, compassion & a tireless commitment to serving her country.”