Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022. She was queen of the United Kingdom for more than 70 years. England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Upon her death, the crown passed to her oldest son—Charles. He became King Charles III.
Elizabeth was born in 1926. When her father died in 1952, Elizabeth became queen. She was only 26 years old. Her televised coronation, or crowning ceremony, was a worldwide event. It attracted more than 20 million viewers.
Elizabeth experienced sweeping changes as queen of the United Kingdom. She saw the end of the British Empire. During her reign, the last of Britain’s colonies won their freedom. Many former colonies, though, kept close ties to the United Kingdom.
As queen, Elizabeth was head of the Commonwealth of Nations. This alliance of 56 countries, most former British colonies, works together to promote peace and democracy. Fifteen members of the Commonwealth—including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—recognized Elizabeth as their queen and head of state.
The announcement of the queen’s death triggered outpourings of grief throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and other parts of the world. Many viewed the queen as an important symbol of their country. Huge crowds gathered outside the royal residence at Buckingham Palace near London.
Her funeral service on September 19 was marked by a procession through the streets of London. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the route to mourn the queen as millions more watched on television. More than 100 world leaders also gathered for the ceremony, paying respects on behalf of their countries.
The death of the queen will require immediate practical changes within the United Kingdom. The national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” will be changed to its older version, “God Save the King.” The queen’s image appears on money, and her symbol can be seen on flags, mailboxes, and government documents. Over time, these will need to be replaced with new versions showing King Charles III. Similar changes will take place in Commonwealth countries, such as Canada, who also have the queen’s image on their money.
The queen’s death brought mixed feelings. In former colonies, the queen was seen by some as a symbol of oppression and injustice. Although Elizabeth II had not been queen during Britain’s empire-building, many people felt she had not done enough to acknowledge the history British rule. Some in Commonwealth countries have called for removing the British monarch as their official head of state. Even within the United Kingdom, many have wondered whether it’s time to end the monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth II had been incredibly popular. So far, King Charles III is much less popular. Some observers predict that the queen’s death will increase calls for the ending the monarchy. Many in the United Kingdom consider it an outdated—and expensive—relic of the past.