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Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving British monarch, has died at 96

Queen Elizabeth II pictured in 2012.
Eddie Mulholland
/
WPA Pool/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II pictured in 2012.

Updated September 8, 2022 at 2:23 PM ET

Queen Elizabeth II, whose seven decades on the throne of the United Kingdom was a longer reign than any other British monarch, has died at the age of 96.

The queen "died peacefully" on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands, royal family officials announced.

Her son Charles, 73, is now king. Officials said he remains at Balmoral and will return to London on Friday.

"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," Charles said in a statement. "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."

Elizabeth had been placed under medical supervision earlier Thursday, officials 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 palace had said in a statement.

Other members of the royal family had also traveled to Balmoral, including her grandson Prince William, who is now the heir apparent. Prince Harry, who was already in the country for a charity event, was also reportedly en route.

After Thursday's announcement, a flood of condolences came in from all corners of the globe: world officials, cultural icons and everyday people alike.

"Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embodied the British nation's continuity and unity for over 70 years," said French President Emmanuel Macron. "I remember her as a friend of France, a kind-hearted queen who has left a lasting impression on her country and her century."

And outside of Buckingham Palace in London, hundreds of mourners had gathered to lay flowers and pay their respects as a double rainbow arced overhead.

In recent years, the queen had taken on fewer public duties, occasionally canceling appearances in which her attendance was once tradition. Mobility issues had troubled her in recent months, and she had taken to spending much of her time at Windsor Castle, the family's country estate near London, and at Balmoral, the castle in Scotland.

In February, she contracted COVID-19, which she later described as leaving her "very tired and exhausted."

In June, Elizabeth appeared at her Platinum Jubilee celebrating her 70 years on the throne, watching the parade from a balcony of Buckingham Palace. But she missed most of the other festivities. And on Tuesday, she met with the U.K.'s new prime minister, Liz Truss, at Balmoral, a first in her reign.

Elizabeth acceded to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952. Over her 70-year-long reign, she oversaw an extraordinary period of British history, including decolonization and the independence of more than 20 countries that were once a part of the British Empire. Fifteen British Prime Ministers came and went during her reign, along with 14 U.S. Presidents.

She commanded widespread respect both at home and abroad but was criticized after the death of Princess Diana for being out of touch with the public mood.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.