The world’s most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, died at her Scottish residence in Balmoral on Thursday aged 96, ushering in an uncertain era for the British crown to which she had dedicated her life.
The Queen died “peacefully” on Thursday afternoon, Buckingham Palace said. The flags were lowered over the palace and God Save the Queen played on the BBC.
The disappearance of the sovereign, whose health had been deteriorating for a year, is sure to cause great emotion in the UK and around the world.
As a symbol of stability that has survived epochs and crises undeterred, since the death of her father George VI. in 1952 when she was only 25 years old rubbing shoulders with Nehru, Charles de Gaulle and Mandela, whom she called “my friend”.
During her reign, she witnessed the construction and then fall of the Berlin Wall and met 12 American Presidents.
She had just named her 15th Prime Minister Liz Truss on Tuesday, prompting a final photograph, frail and leaning on a cane.
His eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, will succeed him at the age of 73.
Flags at half mast
The death of the sovereign, who made limited appearances for one night in hospital in October 2021 and struggled to get around, opens a period of national mourning leading up to her funeral in ten days.
Flags were lowered and church bells rang to mark the disappearance of whoever, very religiously, was also the head of the Anglican Church.
Elizabeth II was at her death the head of state of 15 kingdoms, from New Zealand to the Bahamas, which she traveled throughout her reign, always dressed in matching outfits, often in bright colours.
Above all, for the vast majority of her subjects, she is the only sovereign they have ever known, present on banknotes, postage stamps (which must change her face) and the subject of constant tabloid attention.
She preserved the institution despite several crises, including the 1997 death of Charles’ ex-wife Diana in Paris, which was pursued by paparazzi. Elizabeth II had been accused of a lack of sympathy for the immense emotions provoked by the disappearance of the “princess of the people”.
She also remained silent amid sexual assault allegations against her son Andrew, who ended it by paying millions of dollars, and remained stoic amid allegations of racism against the royal family, from her young son Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, whose departure to California was a thunderbolt.
The future of the monarchy looks more complicated for Charles, whose popularity is significantly lower. The British prefer the current Crown Prince Prince William and his wife Kate.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was not destined to be Queen when she was born on April 21, 1926. However, in late 1936 her uncle Edward VIII abdicated, preferring to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American.
Elizabeth II’s father then became King George VI and she became the heiress to the crown.
The young princess married officer Philip Mountbatten, son of Prince Andrew of Greece, aged 21, in a sumptuous ceremony that will set dreaming in the still-deprived post-war UK.
On February 6, 1952, while traveling to Kenya, she learned of the death of her 56-year-old father. She returned to Britain immediately and was crowned on June 2, 1953.
With her four children – Charles, born in 1948, Anne (1950), Andrew (1960) and Edward (1964) – Elizabeth II still fulfilled hundreds of engagements every year after 90: inaugurations of all kinds, receptions in Buckingham, presentations of awards or awards.
Charles will have a lot to do to preserve Britain’s attachment to the monarchy, an institution some consider obsolete but whose prestige Elizabeth II managed to preserve.
He came to the throne at a time when the unity of the UK was crumbling under the impact of Brexit, which has sparked a desire for independence in Scotland and intercommunal tensions in Northern Ireland. Even in the former British colonies that remained kingdoms, the colonial past was heavily criticized and republican tendencies strengthened.
More details to come.