Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended to the British throne at age 25, counted Winston Churchill and former President Reagan as close friends, and became the longest-reigning monarch in the nation’s history, has died. She was 96.
The Royal Family confirmed the news on Twitter, writing in a statement, “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.”
Within an hour of the announcement, thousands had gathered at Buckingham Palace to pay their respects, according to a Daily Wire reporter on-scene. Some cried, others prayed, and others talked about the queen and her legacy.
Though the British monarchy is largely ceremonial from a legal standpoint, Queen Elizabeth II did wonders for national morale throughout her life, especially in times of political and cultural turmoil. Yet one of her greatest achievements came early in her career, when she served as a steadfast symbol following the drama that preceded her ascension to the throne in the early 1950s.
Her Majesty was active during the entirety of her decades-long reign. The most well-traveled monarch in history, the Queen visited 110 countries and was received so well that major parks, cities, and statues bearing her namesake can be found in nearly every corner of the globe. She was ubiquitous in popular culture, appearing in ceremonies, sporting events, and coins, and was the subject of films and shows. As of 2021, Queen Elizabeth II was named the third most admired woman in a global survey. She was the only royal on the list.
“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change,” said Queen Elizabeth II during a Christmas Broadcast in 2019.
Elizabeth was born in 1926 in Mayfair, London, as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her father later became King George VI when his older brother King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. During World War II, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and worked as a driver and mechanic. She became the first female member of the royal family to serve in the armed forces and, when she died, was the only living head of state to serve.
Upon turning 21, Elizabeth vowed her life to serve the Commonwealth. “I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple. I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she said. She renewed that vow in 2022 during her Platinum Jubilee celebration, when she became the first English monarch to reign 70 years.
Elizabeth wed Philip Mountbatten, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, in 1947. Philip and Elizabeth first met in 1934 at a royal family wedding but the romantic spark didn’t light until a few years later in 1939 when she was 13 and he was 18. The strapping cadet caught Elizabeth’s eye while she was with her parents visiting Britain’s Royal Naval College.
Since the pair wed following World War II, Elizabeth had to use ration coupons to buy the materials for her wedding dress just like other brides of the time. It’s said that royal advisors had reservations about Philip being the right match. However, Elizabeth was smitten and could not be dissuaded.
“We behave as though we had belonged to each other for years,” Elizabeth wrote in a letter to her parents shortly after getting married. “Philip is an angel – he is so kind and thoughtful.’’
The pair were married for 73 years until Philip’s death in 2021. They shared four children together: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Prince Charles, who is now expected to ascend the throne.
Elizabeth’s father died unexpectedly in February 1952 while Elizabeth was traveling in Kenya. After his passing, she became queen regent of seven independent Commonwealth countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, at the age of 25.
Queen Elizabeth lived through some of the most significant moments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including multiple wars and cultural events. She personally met with 13 out of 14 sitting presidents during her reign — the only exception was President Lyndon B. Johnson.
During the 1960s and the 1970s, Elizabeth’s reign saw the spreading reality of decolonization in Africa and the Caribbean, with more than 20 countries gaining independence from the British crown and establishing their own independent governments. Her Majesty survived an assassination attempt in 1981 during the Trooping the Colour ceremony when a 17-year-old shot at her from point blank range as she rode her horse. She was praised for remaining calm even in the face of potential death.
As queen, she was generally well-liked due to her staunch sense of duty and unwillingness to get involved in politics or other contentious issues. Unknowable yet gracious, she was always friendly and seldom showed her deepest emotions, with the exception of some rare occasions. Her close family all called her by the nickname “Lilibet,” which she had since childhood. She was known for loving horses and corgis, which were part of the royal household constantly over the years.
The queen was rumored to despise drama and, when it came to scandals, she lived by the motto “never complain, never explain.”
But Her Majesty famously gave a small glimpse into her feelings in 1992 — the year she entered the fourth decade of her reign, and the year her family strife spilled into public view.
In the course of 12 months, Prince Andrew’s wife Fergie, the Duchess of York, was caught engaging in an affair, Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, and the queen’s home of Windsor Castle caught fire. Andrew Morton’s biography “Diana” also revealed dark secrets about Diana, including bulimia and self-mutilation, and Princess Anne divorced Captain Mark Philips and then remarried in the same year.
“1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,” Elizabeth said of these events during a speech. “In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis [horrible year].”
More scandals and tragedies awaited the royal family. Several years later, in 1997, Princess Diana would die in a fiery car crash, leaving Princes William and Harry without a mother. The queen’s third child, Prince Andrew, would become enveloped in an underage sex scandal tied to the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Queen Elizabeth remained steadfast and devout to her duties of servitude until the end, although over the years, the number of public appearances she made diminished. She was the patron of more than 600 organizations and charities, and remained extremely active well into her 90s, continuing to make public appearances and speeches. She was known for wearing bright colors, including vibrant hats, so that the crowds would all be able to spot her, according to the documentary “The Queen at 90.”
She will be remembered as one of the most beloved and accomplished monarchs in the world.
“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future,” she said a the 2008 Christmas Broadcast.