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Five things to know about Queen Elizabeth II’s life and legacy

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Samir Hussein/WireImage

(LONDON) — Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace confirmed in a statement.

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” the palace wrote, referencing Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the queen’s traditional summer residence. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Elizabeth’s death comes just over two months after her Platinum Jubilee celebration, which marked her 70th year on on the British throne. The queen participated in a limited number of jubilee festivities, with palace officials citing health issues and “discomfort” that prevented her full attendance.

The queen, who was forced to use a walking stick in recent months, was determined to continue working through her health issues and as recently as Tuesday participated in an official appointment ceremony at Balmoral for the country’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss.

During her time on the throne, Elizabeth met countless foreign dignitaries and saw Britain through a number of historic events and landmark moments.

Here are five things to know about the British monarch and her 70-year reign:

She was the longest-reigning monarch in British history

Elizabeth was the longest-serving monarch in British history, surpassing even her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria for the title in 2015.

She came into power at the age of 25 following her father King George VI’s death in 1952. Her coronation in 1953 was a national spectacle and was broadcast across the globe.

During her reign, Elizabeth was served by 15 British prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Truss, and she met with 13 of the last 14 U.S. presidents.

The queen had four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren

Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, the duke of Edinburgh, on Nov. 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey in London. In 2017, Prince Philip and the queen celebrated 70 years of marriage, making her the first monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary. Phillip died on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99.

Together, the couple had four children, their eldest being Prince Charles, who upon his mother’s death Thursday became known as King Charles III.

Elizabeth first became a grandmother in 1977 after her daughter Princess Anne gave birth to son Peter Phillips.

Over the next three decades, the queen welcomed seven more grandchildren: Zara Phillips Tindall, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor, and James, Viscount Severn.

Elizabeth was also a great-grandmother to 12 children: Savannah and Isla Phillips; Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis; Mia, Lena, and Lucas Philip Tindall; Archie Harrison and Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor; August Philip Hawke Brooksbank; and Sienna Elizabeth Mapelli Mozzi.

Lilibet, whose father is Prince Harry, made history upon her birth in June 2021 as the queen’s first great-grandchild to be born outside of the U.K.

She was an international head of state

Elizabeth, who never technically owned a passport, made more than 270 trips abroad during her time as queen.

She was the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, a political association of 56 member states, composed mostly of former British territories. The queen was recognized as the constitutional monarch of 15 sovereign states in the Commonwealth including Canada, The Bahamas and New Zealand.

A queen of many firsts

During seven decades as head of the royal family, Elizabeth made history time and time again, starting from her very first day on the throne.

Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was the first coronation ceremony to be broadcast on TV and it was watched by a record-breaking 27 million people in the U.K. alone.

She also started the royal tradition of greeting the public, known as a “walkabout,” during a tour in Sydney in 1970.

In terms of her stately duties, Elizabeth made many critical diplomatic firsts, including visiting West Germany in 1965, upon which she became the first British monarch to visit Germany in 52 years. She also became the first British monarch to visit China in October 1986.

Elizabeth made her way to the U.S. in 1991 where she to be the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress.

Her health had been declining in recent months

Elizabeth’s health had been deteriorating in the months leading up to her death.

On May 10, she missed the State Opening of Parliament ceremony, which formally marks the start of a new parliamentary session, for only the third time in her 70-year reign. The two other times she missed the ceremony were due to pregnancies.

The queen tested positive for COVID-19 in February after it was confirmed that Charles and his wife, Camilla, now-queen consort, had also tested positive for the virus. While Buckingham Palace said the queen experienced “mild cold-like symptoms” at the time, she was eventually forced to cancel some of her virtual engagements amid her recovery.

The queen, who previously had surgery in both knees to remove cartilage in 2003, began using a walking stick in late 2021.

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