Queen Elizabeth II Has Died

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch in the history of Great Britain, has died at 96.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history and the longest-serving head of state in the world, has died according to the New York Times. She was 96, and her health had been rapidly declining in recent months. Her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, has been heir apparent to the throne for decades and can be expected to assume the monarchy in the near future. The United Kingdom has not crowned a new head of state since Queen Elizabeth assumed the role in 1953, so there doubtlessly will be many ceremonies and steps before Charles will be crowned. Queen Elizabeth is survived by Charles and his second wife Camilla Parker Bowles, her only daughter Anne, Princess Royal, and her sons Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth of York in 1926, a member of the House of Windsor (formerly known as House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was renamed by royal decree due to increasing anti-German sentiment during World War I). She assumed the throne upon the death of her father George VI, who himself had ascended to the monarchy after his elder brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry an American divorcee. Unusually, Queen Elizabeth declined to take her husband Philip Mountbatten’s name, as was expected and to which he publicly complained. However, the long reign of Queen Elizabeth would see her presiding over numerous unusual historical events, and that small sign of an unusual degree of independence was telling. 

The life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II would be one of the most documented and fictionalized of any modern monarch. She has been portrayed by innumerable famous actresses in many films and television series, including Helen Mirren (who won an Academy Award for playing her in The Queen in 2006), Vanessa Redgrave, and Emma Thompson among many others. The hit Netflix series The Crown has cast several actresses as Queen Elizabeth II so far, including Claire Foy in the first two seasons and  Olivia Colman in the most recent two. The upcoming fifth season will feature Imelda Staunton (best known for portraying the wicked Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series of films) as Queen Elizabeth II in the upcoming fifth season of the show.

Queen Elizabeth II was also widely referenced and portrayed in other aspects of popular culture. Notably, the seminal punk band The Sex Pistols criticized her in the highly controversial song “God Save the Queen,” which was released during Queen Elizabeth II’s 1977 Silver Jubilee (the 25th anniversary of her coronation). The song received a near-total radio ban in the United Kingdom but has come to be regarded as a classic of the punk genre.

Queen Elizabeth II will be notable in both British and world history for the length of her reign and her ability to seemingly remain changeless and devoted to tradition in the face of massive social change. Her reign encompassed the election of the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, several highly controversial wars, the decolonization of Africa, violent conflict with Ireland, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, and the highly publicized divorce of her son Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales (and the latter’s subsequent death). Queen Elizabeth will most likely be laid to rest at the familial Windsor Castle beside various family members, and the United Kingdom will observe a period of national mourning.