Britain’s longest-reigning monarch dies at 96

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has died in Scotland. Her son Charles is now King Charles III.

It is a moment that the United Kingdom has been bracing for, with an elaborate plan for “Operation London Bridge” mapping out what happens next. 

But it comes as a shock all the same. Elizabeth, 96, was a symbol of stability and continuity —

even through royal scandals, the contraction of the British Empire and massive changes around the world.

Only days ago, she oversaw the appointment of her 15th prime minister.

The formal succession will unfold over the next 10 days. Charles will set the tone for what he will be like as monarch. 

But on Thursday, the primary focus was on the queen and her legacy, as Britons lay flowers outside Buckingham Palace in London and tributes poured in from around the globe.

It had been “a perfectly happy day,” one newspaper later wrote of Feb. 5, 1952.

King George VI, who had been ill, was feeling well enough to go hare hunting at his Sandringham estate.

“The King, a great shot, was on top of his form,” his neighbor Lord Fermoy said.

Next: The subtle power of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign