Queen Elizabeth II: Britain wakes to first day in more than 70 years without its Queen, as country mourns

Tributes have poured in from across the globe for Elizabeth, who died at age 96 after the longest reign in British history, a period during which she oversaw the last throes of the British empire, weathered global upheaval and domestic scandal, welcomed 15 prime ministers, and dramatically modernized the monarchy.

Though Britons rarely looked to the monarchy for political leadership, Elizabeth has been a steady presence highly esteemed by many throughout decades of significant change that saw Britain transform from a war-weary declining imperial power into a modern multi-cultural state.

As news of the Queen’s death spread following an announcement from the royal family Thursday evening, crowds of mourners gathered outside London’s Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s residence, Balmoral Castle, where she was at the time of her passing, and other royal residences, despite heavy downpours in parts of the UK.

Many brought flowers and lit candles, some looking visibly shaken by the news. Quiet singing of “God Save the Queen” broke out across the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace, where throngs gathered together even as night fell.

In keeping with the royal tradition, a written statement announcing the Queen’s death was displayed on the palace gates. In a striking moment just after the official announcement was made, the heavy rain battering London stopped and a large double rainbow appeared over the palace.

The royal family announced her passing in a series of social media posts, with the first announcement coming from Buckingham Palace at 6:30 p.m. UK time in a tweet.

It simply read: “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.”

King Charles III is expected to make an address Friday, a royal spokesperson told CNN.

Crowds gather around the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace in London following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.
World leaders from across the globe have made statements honoring Elizabeth’s life, underscoring the global impact she made made during her 70-year reign. Elizabeth was head of state not just in the UK but in 14 other Commonwealth realms including Australia and Canada, and was head of the 54-member Commonwealth — the overwhelming majority of which are former colonial territories of the British Empire.
The outpouring of sympathy included a statement from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who called the Queen “a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change,” and another from US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden who said the Queen “defined an era.” In Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in a tweet Friday morning the Queen would be “remembered as a stalwart of our times,” while Chinese leader Xi Jinping called Charles on Friday to express his “deep condolences,” Chinese state media said.
Regular meetings between the many agencies, from central and local government departments to military and religious authorities and representatives of the other 14 countries where she was also head of state, have taken place for decades to plan and rehearse details for the events following her passing.

In the 24 hours after the announcement of the Queen’s death, there will be gun salutes across London — one round for every year of Elizabeth’s life — and a broadcast by the new King will be played out. Over the coming days, the bells of Westminster Abbey, St Pauls and Windsor Castle will toll.

As monarch, Queen Elizabeth is automatically granted a publicly funded state funeral, and details will be released in the coming days.

Because the Queen died at Balmoral Castle, her residence in Scotland, arrangements will be made over the coming days for her to be transported back to England.

Other formalities to come include a meeting of the Accession Council in an ancient ceremony at the 500-year-old St James’s Palace in London. One part of that meeting will include a formal announcement of the sovereign’s death, and a formal proclamation of King Charles III as the new sovereign.

This is a closed meeting but attended by hundreds of dignitaries and members of the Privy Council, which is a panel of royal advisers, and will be followed by the Garter King of Arms — the person charged with overseeing royal ceremonial duties — reading the Proclamation from the palace balcony and gun salutes will across the capital.

CNN’s David Wilkinson, Susannah Cullinane, Peter Wilkinson, Laura Smith-Spark and Stephanie Busari contributed to this story.

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