Queen Elizabeth II has died this evening at the age of 96 after reigning for 70 years. The monarch was at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she spent the summer. No information on the cause of death has been released.

In a statement, Buckingham Palace 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.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Buckingham Palace released a statement saying doctors have expressed concern for the Queen’s health and had recommended she remain under medical supervision.

Following the medical alert, her eldest son and heir to the throne Prince Charles, her grandson Prince William and other members of the British royal family travelled to Balmoral to stay by the Queen's side.

Earlier in the week, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been suffering from mobility problems since the end of 2021, had already shown signs of her fragile health by requesting that the audience with the newly elected prime minister of the United Kingdom – a ceremony that traditionally takes place at Buckingham Palace – be held at Balmoral. On the occasion, the monarch swore in the new leader of the Conservative Party, Liz Truss, who replaced Boris Johnson, becoming the country's third-ever female PM.

Elizabeth II's death comes just months after the country celebrated its platinum jubilee, marking 70 years of her reign. Crowned in 1952 at the age of 25, she is the longest-serving British monarch ever, surpassing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

In April 2021 the Queen suffered a major blow after her husband Prince Philip, to whom she had been married since 1947, died aged 99, two months before he would have turned 100.

Daughter of an unlikely king

Born in London on 21 April 1926, Elizabeth was the first-born daughter of Prince Albert of York, who would later have another girl, Margareth, born in 1930.

Elizabeth’s father, who was not the natural heir to the British throne, would be crowned King George VI in 1936, after his elder brother Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, divorced from her first husband and in the process of divorcing her second.

The Church of England, of which British monarchs are heads, did not allow at the time divorced people to remarry if their former spouses were still alive.

In November 1947, Elizabeth married British Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. Born in Corfu, Greece, he was a member of the Greek and Danish royal families, but was exiled along with his parents when he was still a baby during the 11 September 1922 Revolution, which would establish the Second Hellenic Republic.

Facing health problems and lung cancer, George VI was found dead in her bed on the morning of 6 February 1952 after suffering a coronary thrombosis in her sleep. He was 56 years old. Elizabeth, who was at the time on a trip to Kenya with her husband, immediately returned to England.

A young new queen

Elizabeth was crowned Queen on 2 June 1953, aged just 25. Held at Westminster Abbey, the ceremony was the first to be televised in the United Kingdom's history, marking the beginning of a process of rapprochement between the monarchy and the public that would become a hallmark of Elizabeth's reign.

During the decades that followed her coronation, Elizabeth witnessed the acceleration of a movement that had been taking place since the end of World War II: the decolonization of the British Empire. Starting with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, this process only ended in 1997 with the handover of Hong Kong to China.

Amidst the dismemberment of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, Elizabeth was central in promoting the Commonwealth, a political association currently made up of 56 independent member countries.

Tumultuous relationship with the media

The process of modernisation of the British monarchy initiated by Queen Elizabeth II has been an undeniable success from the point of view of breathing new life into an institution that had been losing prestige around the world. A YouGov poll released in April 2021, for example, showed that 83 per cent of Britons had a positive opinion of Queen Elizabeth II and 61 per cent said they would prefer to keep her as head of state.

The modernisation of the monarchy, however, brought with it greater scrutiny of the royal family by the British press, especially its famous tabloids. One of the first scandals to be exhaustively covered by the media was the relationship of Elizabeth's sister, Princess Margaret, with British Royal Air Force pilot Peter Townsend, a divorcee with two children and sixteen years older than her.

After suffering pressure from family, politicians and the Church of England, the princess ended her relationship with Townsend. In 1960, she eventually married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, with whom she had two children, but the following years were filled with news of the princess's extramarital affairs, leading to her divorce in 1978.

In 1992, the year she celebrated the 40th anniversary of her coronation, Elizabeth saw the press massively cover the near-simultaneous divorces of Prince Andrew, her second son, with Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Anne, her only female child, with Mark Phillips.

The greatest point of tension between the monarchy and the media would occur four years later, with the divorce of Charles and Diana, who would also die the following year in a car accident in Paris.

The tragedy caused a huge commotion in the UK, and the fact that the Queen only made a statement five days after the death caused her popularity to plummet.

The latest scandal to hit the royal family was Prince Andrew's alleged involvement in a sex scandal. According to allegations, in 2001 he had sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl, victim of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking network.

The royal family was also shaken by the decision, in early 2020, of Elizabeth’s grandson Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to step down from their royal duties and move to the United States. In March 2022, the couple claimed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that there were concerns inside the royal family about the skin colour of their first child, Archie. Oprah later dismissed Elizabeth and Prince Phillip's involvement in the episode, and the Queen said the allegations would be taken “very seriously”.