London – People are leaving flowers and personal tributes outside palaces and churches as the United Kingdom marks the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The UK’s longest-reigning monarch died “peacefully” on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96.
Waking up to their first day without a woman once described by her grandson Harry as “the nation’s grandmother”, members of the public began gathering again outside Buckingham Palace to lay flowers and take photos of the growing memorial there.
Billboards across the city displayed messages of condolence and newspapers ran front page photo tributes to the queen.
At the remote Balmoral Castle, people also arrived to pay their respects.
King Charles III, who became the new monarch immediately, is expected to address the nation on Friday.
Charles, who raced to be by the side of the queen, was due to travel back to London with his wife Camilla, now Queen Consort.
He is expected to meet Prime Minister Liz Truss before later addressing the country. There will also be gun salutes.
Regular business in the British Parliament was scrapped and replaced with a special session for lawmakers to pay tribute to the queen.
Parliament will also convene on Saturday, something it rarely does, and will approve a formal message of condolence to the king.
News that the queen’s health was deteriorating emerged shortly after noon on Thursday when her doctors said in a statement that she was under medical supervision, prompting her family to rush to Scotland.
The queen had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace had called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements. Her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, died in 2021.
Her last public duty came only on Tuesday when she appointed Truss prime minister – the 15th of her reign.
Trade unions cancelled planned strikes and the BBC, the national broadcaster, said that “as a mark of respect”, it had called off its remaining ‘Proms’ concerts – whose patriotic, flag-waving finale was due to take place on Saturday.
The news of the Queen’s death stunned not only people in Britain, with condolences pouring in from leaders around the world.
“Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world,” U.S. president Joe Biden said in a statement.
Queen Elizabeth II, who was also the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on February 6, 1952, when she was only 25.
She was crowned in June the following year. The first televised coronation was a foretaste of a new world in which the lives of the royals were to become increasingly scrutinised by the media.
“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine,” she said in a speech to her subjects on her coronation day. “Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”
Elizabeth became monarch at a time when Britain still retained much of its old empire with Winston Churchill her prime minister, while Josef Stalin led the Soviet Union, and the Korean War was raging.
She steered the monarchy through turbulent times, as Britain’s empire ended and its place in the world fundamentally changed.
Bereft of its symbol of continuity and resilience, Britain now begins its new era in grave economic crisis, marked by ructions with Europe and a populace disaffected by years of political strife and scandal.