King Charles III has paid tribute to his “beloved” mother Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, after she died aged 96.
As the Queen’s passing was met with an outpouring of grief, Charles – the nation’s new king – led the mourning, saying “her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world”.
In his first statement as monarch, issued shortly after his mother’s death was announced, the 73-year-old said his family “mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved mother”.
The Queen – who was head of state for an historic 70 years – died peacefully at Balmoral, Scotland, on Thursday afternoon, Buckingham Palace said.
In an address to the nation outside Number 10, prime minister Liz Truss – who met with the Queen on only Tuesday as she was appointed to the new role by the monarch – said it was "the passing of the second Elizabethan age”.
She also announced Charles’s new title, saying: “Today the crown passes, as it has done for more than 1,000 years, to our new monarch, to our new head of state, His Majesty King Charles III.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the Queen as a “remarkable sovereign”, while former prime minister Sir Tony Blair said the nation had lost “not just our monarch but the matriarch of our nation”.
In a written statement, Charles – whose wife, Camilla, is the now Queen Consort – said: “The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family.
“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.
“During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held.”
Sarah, the Duchess of York, the former wife of the Queen’s son Andrew, said she was “heartbroken” by the death of the monarch and paid tribute to her “extraordinary legacy” and “constant steadying presence”.
“To me, she was the most incredible mother-in-law and friend. I will always be grateful to her for the generosity she showed me in remaining close to me even after my divorce,” she said. “I will miss her more than words can express.”
At 6.30pm on Thursday, a tweet from the Royal Family’s Twitter account 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.”
Officials also brought a notice confirming the Queen‘s death to the gates of Buckingham Palace, where the flag has been lowered to half mast.
Dressed in black, Ms Truss hailed the Queen as the “rock on which modern Britain was built", describing her as the “very spirit of Great Britain”. She said: "Our country has grown and flourished under her reign. Britain is the great country it is today because of her."
The prime minister added: "Through thick and thin, Queen Elizabeth II provided us with the stability and the strength that we needed. She was the very spirit of Great Britain – and that spirit will endure.”
She said: "In the difficult days ahead, we will come together with our friends ... across the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the world ... to celebrate her extraordinary lifetime of service.
"It is a day of great loss, but Queen Elizabeth II leaves a great legacy. Today the Crown passes – as it has done for more than a thousand years – to our new monarch, our new head of state: His Majesty King Charles III.
“With the King’s family, we mourn the loss of his mother. And as we mourn, we must come together as a people to support him. To help him bear the awesome responsibility that he now carries for us all.
“We offer him our loyalty and devotion just as his mother devoted so much to so many for so long.
“And with the passing of the second Elizabethan age, we usher in a new era in the magnificent history of our great country – exactly as Her Majesty would have wished – by saying the words … God save the King."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the Queen as a “remarkable sovereign”, adding: “It is a deep, private loss for the royal family and all our thoughts are with them at this time. The nation shares in their grief.
“We will always treasure Queen Elizabeth II’s life of service and devotion to our nation and the Commonwealth; our longest-serving and greatest monarch.
“Above the clashes of politics, she stood not for what the nation fought over, but what it agreed upon. As Britain changed rapidly around her, this dedication became the still point of our turning world.
“So as our great Elizabethan era comes to an end, we will honour the late Queen’s memory by keeping alive the values of public service she embodied.
“For 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II stood as the head of our country. But, in spirit, she stood amongst us.”
Press Association contributed to this report
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies