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Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96

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Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, has died at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.

She died peacefully on Thursday afternoon at her Scottish estate, where she had spent much of the summer.

The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social change.

Her son King Charles III said the death of his beloved mother was a “moment of great sadness” for him and his family and that her loss would be “deeply felt” around the world.

He said: “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother.

Buckingham Palace staff place the official notice of the Queen's death outside the palace

The King and his wife, Camilla, now Queen Consort, will return to London on Friday, Buckingham Palace said. He is expected to address the nation on Friday.

Senior royals had gathered at Balmoral after the Queen’s doctors became concerned about her health earlier in the day.

Her grandson and now heir to the throne, Prince William, and his brother, Prince Harry, also gathered there.

Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was appointed by the Queen on Tuesday, said the monarch was the rock on which modern Britain was built, who had “provided us with the stability and strength that we needed”.

Speaking about the new King, she said: “We offer him our loyalty and devotion, just as his mother devoted so much, to so many, for so long.

“And with the passing of the second Elizabethan age, we usher in a new era in the magnificent history of our great country, exactly as Her Majesty would have wished, by saying the words ‘God save the King’.”

The Queen was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, in Mayfair, London, on 21 April 1926. Few could have foreseen she would become monarch but in December 1936 her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated from the throne to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson.

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Elizabeth’s father became King George VI and, at age 10, Lilibet, as she was known in the family, became heir to the throne.

Within three years, Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, spent much of wartime at Windsor Castle after their parents rejected suggestions they be evacuated to Canada.

After turning 18, Elizabeth spent five months with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and learned basic motor mechanic and driving skills. Through the war, she exchanged letters with her third cousin, Philip, Prince of Greece, who was serving in the Royal Navy. Their romance blossomed and the couple married at Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947, with the prince taking the title of Duke of Edinburgh.

She would later describe him as “my strength and stay” through 74 years of marriage, before his death in 2021, aged 99.