British officials in London announced that Elizabeth II, Queen of England, has died at the age of 96.
Elizabeth reigned for more than 70 years and became Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
Officials at the headquarters of the British royal family said Elizabeth died at her summer home of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Members of the royal family had hurried to be with her after her health appeared to worsen.
Her son, 73-year-old Prince Charles, will now become king. It is unclear whether he will reign as King Charles III or under another name.
The effects of her death may not be fully known for years. She helped strengthen the British monarchy and was respected by the British public and world leaders. Most Britons have never known another monarch.
Elizabeth became queen on February 6, 1952. During her reign, her country rebuilt after the destruction of World War II.
Elizabeth served with 15 British prime ministers, starting with Winston Churchill, Britain’s famous wartime leader. That line extended all the way to September 6, when she accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson and welcomed Liz Truss as the country’s new prime minister.
In Britain’s constitutional monarchy, the prime minister serves as the head of government while the monarch serves as head of state.
‘Devoted to your service’
Five years before she became queen, a 21-year-old Elizabeth promised the people of Britain: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
For most of her life, Elizabeth served as the public face of the British monarchy and of the British people. She represented Britain’s last link to the World War II generation and its many sacrifices.
She was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor in London on April 21, 1926. She was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York and was not expected to be queen. But her father’s older brother, who became King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936 and Elizabeth’s father became George VI.
She was a teenager when Britain went to war with Germany. She spent much of the war living near London at Windsor Castle. When the war in Europe ended, she said she celebrated with the crowds in London. She described the day as “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”
In 1947, she married Royal Navy officer Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark. The first of their four children, Prince Charles, was born in 1948, followed by Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960, and Prince Edward in 1964.
While visiting Kenya in 1952, Elizabeth was told that her father had died and that she was queen.
Over the long years of her reign, she led the royal family through good times and bad.
The marriage of son Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 was televised around the world. But the queen called 1992 a terrible year when her daughter divorced, Charles separated from Diana and Andrew separated from his wife, too. In 1997, Diana was killed in a car accident in France. Elizabeth’s reaction to the tragedy left her somewhat less popular worldwide.
But the queen, from her earlier years to old age, continued to present a public image of bravery and common sense.
Elizabeth spoke to her nation in April 2020 as people were being kept apart by COVID-19 health restrictions. She offered hope of better times ahead.
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days shall return…We will meet again,” she said.
The marriage of Philip and Elizabeth lasted 73 years until his death in 2021 at the age of 99. She is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this Associated Press report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
reign –v. to rule a country as king, queen or emperor
monarch –n. a person who rules a kingdom or empire usually through heredity
abdicate –v. to leave the position of being a king or queen
throne –n. the special chair of a king or queen
divorced –v. to end a marriage by a legal process
endure –v. to experience pain or suffering for a long time
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