On September 6, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II was photographed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, shaking hands with Liz Truss, who was replacing beleaguered outgoing PM Boris Johnson.
In these now-famous photographs, the 96-year-old monarch looked small and frail, but she met the short-lived new PM with a smile on her face and a sturdy walking stick in hand.
It seems difficult to grasp, looking at those photographs now, that two days later the Queen would be gone.
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But on the afternoon of September 8, 2022, she died, surrounded by her closest family, and the world was plunged into mourning.
Whilst other members of the royal family often made tabloid headlines for all the wrong reasons – sex sandals, divorce, and worse – the Queen remained steadfast and stoic throughout it all.
Even those critical of the monarchy could agree on one thing: she had given her life to public service.
Suddenly, she was gone – and an era gone with her.
It was clear that the Queen’s health had been ailing for some time, and everybody knew she wouldn’t live forever.
But that didn’t stop the global outpouring of grief when the inevitable did happen.
The Queen’s ill health
The Queen had been suffering mobility issues for some time and was attending fewer and fewer official functions.
In the year before her death, her son Charles and grandson William had taken the baton and run with it more often, taking over many of the Queen’s royal duties.
When Boris Johnson resigned as the British Prime Minister, the usual tradition would have been for the outgoing and incoming PMs to meet with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
But the Queen was on her summer holiday at Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands, so Johnson and Truss came to her.
The day after her meeting with Liz Truss on September 6, the Queen cancelled a virtual meeting with the Privy Council – and her inner circle knew something was seriously wrong.
The Palace put out a statement on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 7: “After a full day yesterday, Her Majesty has this afternoon accepted doctors’ advice to rest.”
Clearly the Queen was in ill health, but at this stage no-one knew how quickly her condition would deteriorate.
September 8, 2022
By the next morning, the Queen’s death was regarded as “imminent” and family members not already at Balmoral were scrambling to get there.
Sadly, one member of the royal family arrived too late.
By the time Prince Harry arrived, around 8pm, his beloved grandmother was gone.
Queen Elizabeth had died peacefully in her bed at 3.10pm on September 8, with her son Charles, his wife Camilla, and daughter Princess Anne by her side.
Her cause of death was given simply as “old age.”
At 70 years and seven months, the longest reign in British royal history was over.
At 6.30pm in the UK, BBC presenter Huw Edwards announced the Queen’s death in calm and measured tones on national TV.
“A few moments ago, Buckingham Palace has announced the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” he said.
“The Palace has just issued this statement: ‘The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon’.”
Already back in London, the new PM Liz Truss stood outside No. 10 Downing Street and paid solemn tribute to the late Queen.
“We are all devastated by the news we have just heard from Balmoral,” she said.
“The death of Her Majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world.
“Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built.”
Suddenly, at the age of 73, Prince Charles was now King Charles III.
Mourners immediately took to the streets of London to share their grief as the world came to grips with the momentous news.
In the following days, key sites around the UK became the repository for thousands of flowers, notes and gifts.
Charles’s estranged sons Harry and William, and their wives Meghan and Katherine, later put on a united front to greet well-wishers and mourners outside Windsor Castle.
The Queen’s funeral
There were now two major events to start planning for: The Queen’s funeral and the new King’s Coronation.
Whilst plans for the Queen’s funeral had been in place for decades, there was one problem: Elizabeth had died in Scotland, not England.
The Queen’s body was taken from Balmoral to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, flown to an RAF Base at Northolt, west England, and from there a hearse took the Queen to Buckingham Palace.
Her body lay in state at Westminster Hall for four days, with hundreds of thousands of people passing through its hallowed halls to pay their respects.
The Queen’s funeral was held on September 19, 2022 at Westminster Abbey, with millions of people around the world watching the solemn and moving service on TV.
After the service, a procession took the Queen’s coffin from London back to Windsor, where she was laid to rest with her husband Prince Philip, who died the year before aged 99.
Mourners lined the streets as the Queen’s cortege moved through the streets of London and then on to Windsor, where a poignant committal ceremony was conducted, accompanied by the mournful sound of the Queen’s beloved bagpipes.
A private burial service followed that night, attended only by immediate members of the royal family.
The King’s coronation
The King and Queen were coronated at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 2023.
Dignitaries from around the world gathered for the event, again with millions tuning in to watch the historic occasion unfold.
With the exception of Prince Harry – who immediately hopped on a plane back to the US, where wife Meghan and children Archie and Lilibet were waiting – the rest of the royal family waved to the cheering hordes below when they returned to Buckingham Palace.
Since then, Charles and Camilla have followed the rhythm of a typical royal year.
They have attended the Commonwealth Day service, Royal Ascot, Garter Day and Trooping the Colour, and it appears the monarchy is following a process of evolution rather than revolution.
The King has completed a number of firsts during his time as head of state, from carrying out his first overseas state visit to Germany to delivering his inaugural Christmas broadcast, but has otherwise flown largely under the radar.
However, the same can’t be said for other members of the royal family, and the institution has not been without drama since Queen Elizabeth’s passing.
Charles and William’s relationship with Prince Harry remains fractured, especially since the publication of Harry’s memoir, Spare, and a Netflix documentary about Harry and Meghan’s decision to move to the US.
Less spoken about is the disgrace surrounding Prince Andrew, who stepped away from public life in 2019 after his relationship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein came under scrutiny.
Rumours abound that Prince Andrew might be set for a return to the fold, despite Queen Elizabeth stripping him of his official duties in the wake of the Epstein scandal.
He was recently spotted in a car with the Prince and Princess of Wales as they attended a church service in Balmoral, and he was reportedly invited to join the royals for their summer break there this year.
Marking the Queen’s death
On the one-year anniversary of the Queen’s death, King Charles will spend the day at Balmoral – the place where she took her last breath, and the place where he became King.
There will be no official event to mark the day, according to Buckingham Palace.
Rather, Charles and Camilla will mark the occasion “quietly and privately” in Scotland.
Prince Harry arrived in the UK of the eve of the first anniversary of his grandmother’s death to attend a charity awards ceremony, but it is believed he will not be visiting his father in Scotland.
On the weekend he will be in Dusseldorf, Germany, for the opening ceremony of his Invictus Games.
As for the future of the monarchy, King Charles is undoubtedly aware that his reign will be much briefer than his mother’s.
Many have wondered if he might abdicate, passing the Crown on to his son William, who is next in line to the throne.
But he has previously said that he will remain King for “the remaining time that God grants me.”
Queen Elizabeth II: Born 21 April, 1926 in Mayfair, London; died 8 September 2022 (aged 96), Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
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