Queen Elizabeth II, the beloved British Monarch who for more than seven decades served the people of the United Kingdom, its Realms, and the Commonwealth, has died aged 96.
The Queen passed away at Balmoral Castle, in the Scottish Highlands, it was announced at 6.30pm London time (3.30am AEST), sparking scenes of mourning throughout the world.
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,” referring to the new King Charles III, who automatically became sovereign upon the Queen’s death.
Tributes have poured in from world leaders, and flowers have flooded the gates outside her British residences, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
Queen Elizabeth II leaves behind a legacy of courage, hope and stoic leadership that will continue to inspire people across the globe.
The Monarch will also be remembered for her commitment to her faith in Christianity, which she proudly spoke of each year in her annual Christmas message.
“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives,” Her Majesty said in her 2016 Christmas broadcast.
“I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love.”
Indeed, love – for her family, for the British people – was the thread of Queen Elizabeth’s storied and celebrated life.
Born on April 21, 1926 to the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor had little prospect of ever becoming Queen, given her father was second in line to the throne.
However, when her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, her father took the throne and Elizabeth became the heir apparent.
In 1947, the future Queen Princess Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of the Royal Navy, who was her distant cousin and was formerly the Prince of Greece and Denmark.
They would have four children: Prince Charles in 1948, Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960, and Prince Edward in 1964.
“Devoted to your Service”
Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya during a royal tour in 1952 when she learned her father had died, after a battle with illness. At the age of 26, Elizabeth had ascended to the throne.
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service,” the newly minted Queen Elizabeth II said in a speech at the time.
Her coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953. The next year, she toured Australia and New Zealand – the first by a reigning British Monarch.
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Queen of Faith
As Queen of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth realms, Elizabeth II also became head of the Church of England. The Sovereign held the title: Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The title dates to the reign of King Henry VIII, who was granted the title “Defender of the Faith” in 1521 by Pope Leo X, before the King separated the English Church from Rome in 1534.
Yet though she was head of the Church of England, the Queen, who was a keen horsewoman and kept several beloved Corgis throughout her life, also honoured other faiths.
“For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people,” the Monarch said in 2013.
As Queen of the Commonwealth, Elizabeth II visited Australia 16 times.
“Ever since I first came here in 1954, I have watched Australia grow and develop at an extraordinary rate,” the Queen said in what would be her final visit down under in 2011.
“This country has made dramatic progress economically, in social, scientific and industrial endeavours and, above all, in self-confidence.”
Yet the Queen never interfered with Australian politics.
In 1975, after Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was sacked by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr, in what became known as the Australian constitutional crisis, Speaker Gordon Scholes appealed to the Queen to step in and reverse the decision. She declined.
Death of Prince Philip
More recently, the Queen suffered her greatest loss with the death of her husband Prince Philip on April 9, 2021.
The couple had been married for 73 years.
On her 95th birthday in 2021, the Queen shared her grief.
“I have, on the occasion of my 95th birthday today, received many messages of good wishes, which I very much appreciate,” Her Majesty said in the statement.
“While as a family we are in a period of great sadness, it has been a comfort to us all to see and to hear the tributes paid to my husband, from those within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world.”
On February 6, 2022, the Queen became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking an incredible seven decades of service to the people of the United Kingdom, its Realms, and the Commonwealth.
She was already the longest reigning royal in British history, passing Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and 216 days in 2015.
And through all those years, the Queen, who had eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, always found counsel and comfort in her faith.
“Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God,” she said in 2002.
“Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”
Queensland Premier sends condolences on the death of Her Majesty The Queen
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will send condolences on behalf of Queensland to Buckingham Palace following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” Premier Palaszczuk said.
“Queen Elizabeth was loved and respected, and represented all that was dignified and positive in the Royal Family.
“Her Majesty was a constant reminder of the true meaning of service, integrity and courage, and she was admired around the world, especially here in Queensland.”
The Queen will be remembered fondly as the longest-reigning monarch of the Commonwealth, having succeeded to the throne on 6 February 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI.
Nine months after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey in London, she arrived in Brisbane on 9 March 1954 as the only reigning monarch to visit Queensland.
Her Majesty stayed at Government House in Brisbane with Queensland Governor Sir John Lavarack and his wife Lady Sybil Lavarack, and her busy itinerary also included regional visits to Bundaberg, Oakey, Toowoomba, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Rockhampton and the Great Barrier Reef.
This was the first of 16 visits to Australia, and eight to Queensland, as The Queen.
“Queen Elizabeth remained a welcome and popular visitor to Queensland’s shores throughout her life, celebrating our culture and traditions,” the Premier said.
“She always provided reassurance in the aftermath of natural disasters and at times of concern for Queenslanders, sending messages of strength and support.
“On her final visit to Queensland in October 2011, Her Majesty paid tribute to the resilience and courage of Queenslanders in the aftermath of the floods and Cyclone Yasi.
“Her subsequent public walk along Brisbane’s South Bank, greeted by thousands of Queenslanders, emphasised the great affection in which she was held in Queensland, Australia and around the world.”
During her reign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was served by 15 Australian Prime Ministers, 16 Governors-General of Australia and 13 Queensland Premiers.
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was devoted to her duty, and she was always very popular and someone who generated an enormous amount of esteem,” the Premier said
“We are all very saddened by her death.”
Queenslanders will have an opportunity to express their grief and condolences at an online condolence book, which will be available at qld.gov.au/condolences. This will be presented to the Royal Family.
Government House will make arrangements for the public who wish to pay their respects at the statue of Her Majesty the Queen on the Estate.