Charles becomes UK’s king as Queen Elizabeth dies at 96

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96, according to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen died peacefully at Baltimo yesterday. Her death brings to a close a reign that spanned seven decades and made her the most recognised woman in the world. As monarch, the Queen is automatically granted a publicly funded state funeral.

The flag at Buckingham Palace was lowered to half mast at 6.30pm. As the news of Queen’s death was announced, hundreds of people were gathered outside the gates. Some began crying. A single helicopter circled the sky above.

Last October, Elizabeth spent a night in hospital and she has been forced to cut back on public engagements since then. On Wednesday she cancelled a virtual meeting with senior ministers after being advised to rest by her doctors.

The previous day she had been pictured appointing Liz Truss as the country’s new prime minister at Balmoral, the 15th premier of her record-breaking reign. A palace source played down speculation that the monarch had suffered a fall.

Elizabeth has been queen of Britain and more than a dozen other countries since 1952, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and earlier this year marked her 70th year on the throne with four days of national celebrations in June.

Charles immediately became King upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. As heir apparent since the age of three, he has been the longest serving heir to the throne in British history. Upon becoming the sovereign, Charles has the option to take any name he chooses for his reign as King. For example, King George VI’s real name was actually Albert. Two previous monarchs have been called Charles.

The new King writes: “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.

“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.

“During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held.”

Charles had already been taking on some of the Queen’s engagements this year as her health had become enough of a concern for her to cancel some of her commitments, including the State Opening of Parliament.

Before her death, the royal family had rushed to be with her after doctors said they were concerned about her health and said she should remain under medical supervision.

The queen, Britain’s longest-reigning sovereign and the world’s oldest monarch, has been suffering from what Buckingham Palace has called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year.

“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 said in a statement. “The queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.”

Her eldest son and heir Prince Charles and his wife Camilla travelled to her Scottish home, Balmoral Castle, where she is staying, along with his eldest son Prince William, officials said. Her other children: Anne, Andrew and Edward were also due to be at the castle as at press time.

A spokesperson said Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, in Britain for a number of events, would travel to Scotland. Such a family gathering, outside of holiday events such as Christmas or major public events, is extremely rare.

The BBC interrupted its normal schedule to switch to constant coverage of the queen. “My prayers, and the prayers of people across the @churchofengland and the nation, are with Her Majesty The Queen today,” Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said on Twitter.

World leaders react

Reactions have been pouring in from world leaders expressing their sympathy and offering condolences to the Royal family.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins: “It is with profound regret and a deep personal sadness that I have learnt of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express my heartfelt sympathy to His Majesty King Charles and to the Royal Family on their very great personal loss. May I offer my deepest condolences to the British people and to the members of the Commonwealth on the loss of a unique, committed and deeply respected Head of State. Her Majesty served the British people with exceptional dignity. Her personal commitment to her role and extraordinary sense of duty were the hallmarks of her period as Queen, which will hold a unique place in British history.”

White House:  White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reacted Thursday to the news that Queen Elizabeth II has died at 96, saying that “our hearts and our thoughts” go to the family and the people of the United Kingdom. Our hearts and our thoughts go to the family members of the Queen, goes to the people of United Kingdom. I don’t want to get ahead of what the President is going to say,” Jean-Pierre said at the end of the White House press briefing, reacting live to the news of the Queen’s passing.  

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres: “I am deeply saddened at the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I extend my sincere condolences to her bereaved family, the Government and people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the wider Commonwealth of Nations,” Guterres noted in a statement. Queen Elizabeth II was a good friend of the United Nations, and visited our New York Headquarters twice, more than fifty years apart. She was deeply committed to many charitable and environmental causes and spoke movingly to delegates at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow,” he said. 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,” Guterres added in the statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: Zelensky expressed condolences to the entire United Kingdom, saying in a tweet “It is with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the 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.”

UK PM: Truss said: “The death of her majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world. Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built,” she said. “Our country has grown and flourished under her reign. She was the very spirit of Great Britain, and that spirit will endure.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: The death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, is a profoundly sad moment for the UK, the Commonwealth and the world. Her life was one of extraordinary dedication and service. On behalf of the people of Scotland, I convey my deepest condolences to the King and the Royal Family.” f

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford: As our longest-reigning monarch, she firmly upheld the values and traditions of the British Monarchy. On behalf of the people of Wales, I offer our deepest condolences to Her Majesty’s family during this sad time.”

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Queen’s profile

Born on April 21, 1926, Queen Elizabeth II was originally known and called Lilibet. She succeeded her father King George VI upon his death in 1952, and was crowned Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. She was groomed to succeed her father. The Queen is known to have been particularly close to her father, and she may have inherited her indefatigable work ethic and practice of putting duty before self from him.

She married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, on November 20, 1947, at London’s Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth wed Prince Philip, a lieutenant in the British Navy who had been born into the royal families of Greece and Denmark. After becoming a British citizen and renouncing his Greek title, Philip became His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His wife became the Duchess of Edinburgh. The first of Elizabeth’s four children, Prince Charles, was born in 1948.

Platinum jubilee

The Queen was the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. She marked her 70 years on the throne on Sunday, June 1, 2022. She succeeded her father King George VI upon his death in 1952 at the age of 56 and was crowned Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953.

She was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, having in 2015 surpassed the record set by her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria.

At the occasion, Prince Charles paid tribute to his mother. The Prince of Wales, 73, congratulated the Queen on her “remarkable achievement” of “serving this nation, the Realms and Commonwealth” for the past seven decades in a statement released by Clarence House. “The Queen’s devotion to the welfare of all her people inspires still greater admiration with each passing year,” the statement added.

Queen’s visit to Nigeria

Queen Elizabeth II was Queen of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963 when the country became a republic. She carried out ceremonial functions during the period. It is of note that Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth where the Queen is the head of the organisation.

During her reign, she visited Nigeria twice, the first time was in 1956, from January 28 to February 16. At the airport, she was welcomed by federal dignitaries which included the Minister of Labour and Welfare at the time, Festus Okotie-Eboh and Governor-General Sir James Robertson.

She was driven around in a Rolls Royce in the country’s capital, Lagos with a lot of fun fare and royal services. She spent time the Northern part of the country with the Sultan where she visited Kano and Kaduna. She also visited Jos and Enugu.

The second time was in 2003 when Nigeria hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which was held between 3-6, December 2003 in Abuja. It was the 18th meeting of the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations and hosted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The presence of the Queen was significant because of the issue of Zimbabwe which was a hot at the time. It was about the suspension of Zimbabwe which led to another dispute over the re-election of Secretary-General Don McKinnon. Before the end of the meeting, President Robert Mugabe announced that Zimbabwe was withdrawing from the Commonwealth.

This best explains the need for the presence of the Queen at the meeting. In a letter addressed towards Nigerian President at the time, the Queen explained that her visit was a demonstration of the value Britain attached to its relations with Nigeria and recognition of the country’s role on the international stage.

Queen Elizabeth opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Abuja on Friday, 5th December. Herself and the Duke of Edinburgh (often referred to as HerMajesty and His Royal Highness respectively) also attended other events during the meeting.

Queen’s dress code

As Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, the Queen is both a cherished and consistent part of public life and her image is synonymous with stability and tradition to the British people. While her love of color and pops of pattern in her outfits is well known, there are much deeper reasons for why she dons such fabulously vibrant hues.

For example, did you know that the vivid color blocks for which she is famous are a deliberate choice, to help those of us who line the streets to see her? “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen,’” according to the Countess of Wessex in the 2016 documentary “The Queen at 90.” But don’t just take Sophie’s word even the Queen once reportedly said: “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am.”

There is an art to dressing one of the most photographed women in history. Over her 70-year reign the Queen has amassed an army of staffers, but few have been trusted with the task of royal dressmaker.

Angela Kelly, who has been dressing the Queen since 1994, has helped craft an airtight strategy for ensuring the sovereign looks effortless at every engagement she attends. That approach includes weighted hem-lines and a signature hat, in addition to researching weather forecasts and local customs.

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