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Her Majesty the Queen, the longest-reigning monarch this country has known, has died, Buckingham Palace announced today.

Her eldest son Charles is now King, having acceded to the throne immediately upon her death.

He in turn was the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, having been first in line to the throne since he was three years old.

A statement published on the Buckingham Palace website said: “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.”

Charles will formally be proclaimed as the new sovereign at St James’s Palace tomorrow, when his regnal name will also be announced.

It is expected that he will choose to be known as Charles III, although there has also been speculation that he will reign as George VII.

The Queen, who acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, George VI, will be given a state funeral at Westminster Abbey, the first state funeral since that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

It will follow a lying in state at Westminster Abbey during which members of the public will have the opportunity to pay their respects.

Books of condolence will be opened at St James’s Palace, the Queen’s Gallery next to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Balmoral and Sandringham.

The Queen’s death marks the passing of the only sovereign most people in the UK have ever known. People would have to be in their seventies to have any memory of her father.

She served her country through war, peace, social upheaval and technological revolution, a symbol of continuity and steadfast devotion to duty while the world changed around her.

History will deliver its verdict in the fullness of time but it is hard to conceive of her being remembered as anything other than one of the greatest monarchs in our history, a figure to rank alongside her namesake Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria.

While her death is the closing of a chapter for these islands, the end of the modern Elizabethan era, it will also be mourned around the world. She was head of state for 14 other nations, from Canada and Australia to the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu.

During her reign she broke a succession of records, including becoming the world’s oldest reigning monarch, the longest-reigning of her time and the most travelled.

In September 2015 she passed Queen Victoria’s record for the longest reign this country has known.

Yet the numbers do not say how, by her modesty, her self-sacrifice, her commitment and her seriousness of purpose, she became a revered figure around the world.

Even to committed republicans she was a symbol of what a monarch should be. Her popularity from Berlin to Brisbane transcended the UK’s standing in the world, and indeed the popularity of constitutional monarchy as a system of government. People may not have had much time for kings and queens any more, but they loved her.

She was not born to be Queen. As the daughter of the Duke of York, the second son of George V, she was destined for a life of relative royal obscurity until her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated and her father became George VI.

Elizabeth became Queen before she expected to, after her father died of lung cancer at the age of 56 while she was on tour in Kenya.

She was 25 and, although already a mother of two, was young enough to be embraced in those postwar years as a symbol of youth, promise and a brighter future ahead.

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