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Queen Elizabeth II

ROYAL YEAR IN REVIEW: The death of Queen Elizabeth II – the end of a truly historic reign

In the end, it was a shock that still seems surreal. When Buckingham Palace announced, in genteel language, on September 8th 2022 that Queen Elizabeth II was unwell, the possibility that the Monarch who had been part of so many lives for so long was about to pass on the Crown was almost too much to take in. Slowly, quietly and then quickly, starkly, millions in the UK and around the world began a wait that could only have one end.

Yet even in the moments before the announcement that would change Britain and its history, anything other than a happy ending seemed too much to contemplate. As thousands stood outside Buckingham Palace, the drizzle that had dominated for that afternoon of sad anticipation faded and a rainbow spread its way across the sky. As one, the TV commentators who had been talking now for hours as the wait for news went on, asked whether it was a sign, an indication that the longest reigning Monarch in British history would continue that epic reign that defied description. The end of the second Elizabethan era was just incomprehensible.

And yet, it had already happened. The country that saw possible joy in a rainbow, soon joined by another in a rare double display, had already been ruled by a King for several hours. As the clock approached 6.30pm on September 8th 2022, the 21st century met a millennium of tradition. As the flag above the Palace was slowly lowered to half mast, an email and a tweet announced the death of one of the greatest Monarchs of them all. Weeks later, we would find out that Elizabeth II had died at 3.10pm that Thursday afternoon. But as the news was broken, the truth appeared to make no sense.

”The Queen died peacefully this afternoon at Balmoral.” A handful of words to end a reign that had changed history. In the UK, TV screens went black and solemn announcements were made. Around the world, news programmes stopped in their tracks. One face, one name, one moment in time dominated everything else. Elizabeth II had been one of the most important, talked about and respected people in the world for the majority of the lives of the seven billion people in it. Now, everyone stopped to hear the announcement that this global figure had left the stage.

Just hours before, the same programmes and websites had talked about how happy Elizabeth II looked in an appearance at Balmoral on September 6th 2022, as she appointed a new Prime Minister. Now, that smiling image was a final image and that almost cheeky grin became something more, perhaps an indication that she knew she was saying goodbye, even if the rest of us hadn’t realised that just yet.

It took several days for the realisation to become reality as anticipation and sadness became mourning and memories. The death of Queen Elizabeth II shook the world in the same way that Her Late Majesty had taken her place in it – without warning and yet with total, genteel dominance. A moment of history, indeed.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.