Update: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s beacon of stability, dies-Doctors placed the 96-year-old Queen under medical supervision at Balmoral Castle, their property in the Scottish Highlands.
The death of the Queen has brought a moment of resonance for Britain.
LONDON – The death of Queen Elizabeth II, announced by Buckingham Palace on Thursday, marks a momentous moment for Britain, which is at once incomparable and incomparable.
It marks the loss of a revered monarch – the only one most Britons have ever known – and the end of a man who served as a living link to the glory of World War II Britain, which fought colonialism. Presided over the apt adjustment of the post-imperialist era and saw it through its bitter divorce from the European Union.
There is no equal public figure who is deeply mourned in Britain – Winston Churchill may come closest – or whose death could stir a great reckoning with the nation’s identity and future. Elizabeth’s extraordinary longevity gave her an air of permanence that makes her death somehow shocking, even at an advanced age.
The Queen’s seven-decade reign had many ups and downs, a tapestry of events that traces the history of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Britain and the 15 other Commonwealth realms he presided over are shadows of the fall-in-the-empire inherited in 1952. How many of those countries will continue to recognize the British monarch as their head of state is an open question.
Her family’s plight was endless and torn apart—from the abandonment of her uncle, Edward, to marrying a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson, which set in motion the events that placed her on the throne, among her grandchildren. The painful breakup, of Prince Harry and the rest of the family members after his marriage to American actress Meghan Markle.
The House of Windsor has faced turmoil, largely thanks to the anchoring role played by the Queen. With her dignity and sense of duty, she rose above newspaper headlines, whether about her troubled sister Princess Margaret; her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and her unfortunate marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales; Or their middle son, Prince Andrew, who is under legal scrutiny over his dealings with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
A well-documented misstep came after Diana’s death in a car accident in Paris in 1997, when the Queen refused to leave her summer residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland to join the nation’s mourning.
The future of the royal family under a new king, Charles, is uncertain. He remarried – his second wife is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall – and his accession to the throne is no longer in doubt as it was during his personal struggles.
But Charles has long expressed a desire to streamline the family to reduce it to a public purse. And internal squabbles continue as royals adapt to the departure of Harry and Meghan, who have forged a new life in California.