Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral this afternoon, bringing to an end the longest reign of any monarch in British history.
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.”
Pope Francis offered his condolences to King Charles, the royal family, and the peoples of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and said he joined all mourners “in praying for the late Queen's eternal rest, and in paying tribute to her life of unstinting service to the good of the nation and the Commonwealth, her example of devotion to duty, her steadfast witness of faith in Jesus Christ and her firm hope in his promises.”
He commended her soul to the mercy of God, and continued in his message to the King:
“I assure Your Majesty of my prayers that Almighty God will sustain you with his unfailing grace as you now take up your high responsibilities as King. Upon you and all who cherish the memory of your late mother, I invoke an abundance of divine blessings as a pledge of comfort and strength in the Lord.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster paid tribute to her Christian faith and life of unstinting service.
Cardinal Nichols said: “On 21 April 1947, on her twenty-first birthday, Princess Elizabeth said, ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.’
“Now, seventy-five years later, we are heartbroken in our loss at her death, and so full of admiration for the unfailing way in which she fulfilled that declaration.
“Even in my sorrow, shared with so many around the world, I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude for the gift to the world that has been the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
“At this time, we pray for the repose of the soul of Her Majesty. We do so with confidence, because the Christian faith marked every day of her life and activity.
“In her Millennium Christmas message, she said, ‘To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.’
“This faith, so often and so eloquently proclaimed in her public messages, has been an inspiration to me, and I am sure to many. The wisdom, stability and service which she consistently embodied, often in circumstances of extreme difficulty, are a shining legacy and testament to her faith.
“Our prayer is that she is now received into the merciful presence of God, there to be reunited with her beloved Prince Philip. This is the promise of our faith, and our deep consolation.
“Queen Elizabeth II will remain, always, a shining light in our history. May she now rest in peace.
“We pray for His Majesty the King, as he assumes his new office even as he mourns his mother. God save the King.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “It is with profound sadness that I join the nation, the Commonwealth and the world in mourning the death of Her Late Majesty The Queen. My prayers are with The King and the Royal Family. May God draw near them and comfort them in the days, weeks and months ahead.
“As we grieve together, we know that, in losing our beloved Queen, we have lost the person whose steadfast loyalty, service and humility has helped us make sense of who we are through decades of extraordinary change in our world, nation and society.
“As deep as our grief runs, even deeper is our gratitude for Her Late Majesty’s extraordinary dedication to the United Kingdom, her Realms and the Commonwealth. Through times of war and hardship, through seasons of upheaval and change, and through moments of joy and celebration, we have been sustained by Her Late Majesty’s faith in what and who we are called to be.
“In the darkest days of the Coronavirus pandemic, The Late Queen spoke powerfully of the light that no darkness can overcome. As she had done before, she reminded us of a deep truth about ourselves – we are a people of hope who care for one another. Even as The Late Queen mourned the loss of her beloved husband, Prince Philip, we saw once again evidence of her courage, resilience and instinct for putting the needs of others first – all signs of a deeply rooted Christian faith.
“As we sustain one another in the face of this challenge, our shared grieving will also be a work of shared reimagining. I pray that we commence this journey with a sense of Her Late Majesty’s faith and confidence in the future.
“As a faithful Christian disciple, and also Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she lived out her faith every day of her life. Her trust in God and profound love for God was foundational in how she led her life – hour by hour, day by day.
“In The Late Queen’s life, we saw what it means to receive the gift of life we have been given by God and – through patient, humble, selfless service – share it as a gift to others.
“Her Late Majesty found great joy and fulfilment in the service of her people and her God, ‘whose service is perfect freedom’ (BCP). For giving her whole life to us, and allowing her life of service to be an instrument of God’s peace among us, we owe her a debt of gratitude beyond measure.
“The Late Queen leaves behind a truly extraordinary legacy: one that is found in almost every corner of our national life, as well as the lives of so many nations around the world, and especially in the Commonwealth.
“It was my great privilege to meet Her Late Majesty on many occasions. Her clarity of thinking, capacity for careful listening, inquiring mind, humour, remarkable memory and extraordinary kindness invariably left me conscious of the blessing that she has been to us all.
“In my prayers at this time I also give thanks for the marriage of The Late Queen and His Late Royal Highness Prince Philip. Theirs was an inspirational example of Christian marriage – rooted in friendship, nourished by shared faith, and turned outwards in service to others.”
In Rome, Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said: “It is with immense sadness that those of us who work in the Holy See from Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the countries of the Commonwealth, received news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1952, following the death of her father King George VI, she not only dedicated herself unstintingly to serve her people, but also entrusted this to God’s protection.
“Her Christian faith, expressed so often in her annual Christmas messages and elsewhere, were moments of outstanding witness to her faith, the Gospel and the values of the common good, family life, peace and concord among peoples.
“Her graciousness and common touch, her statesmanship and love for her people in the many countries, cultures and religions of the Commonwealth have witnessed an unbroken and unique bond of dedication to the service of others. She has been greatly loved by all.
“Following the promise she made in her famous broadcast at the age of 21 in 1947, she remained steadfast to the moment of her dying in fulfilling her own words then: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service’.”
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Rev John McDowell issued a statement beginning: “Queen Elizabeth II, like her father, did not pass her childhood in any certain expectation of the Crown. But already we know her well …”
He continued: “Those words were written by Winston Churchill on hearing of the death of Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI. If the old statesman could claim that the young Queen was well known to her people then, how much more can we say so now, who have watched and admired as her steady hand, her searching eyes and her warm smile graced so many occasions of great significance in the life of the United Kingdom.
“All deaths are inevitable, but few are as unimaginable as that of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been on the throne and the stage of public life longer than any person, living or dead. The burden of such a life was rarely visible except when she chose to share her feelings about a particular event or annus horribilis with a sympathetic public. Mostly when she spoke it was to draw attention to others.
“She reigned at a time when monarchy was under unparalleled and unforgiving scrutiny, often accompanied by searing comment. It was with the support of the late Duke of Edinburgh that she weathered the storms with unfailing dignity and cheerfulness. Can anyone doubt that the loss of her ‘liegeman of life and limb’ after over sixty years of love and friendship was perhaps the greatest sorrow Queen Elizabeth ever faced in her long and eventful life?
“For all who met her, it was clear that she was interested in people from all backgrounds and that she respected them. In the privacy of their meetings she also shared the riches of her incomparable experience of public affairs with 15 prime ministers. Her many visits to Northern Ireland were evidence of her awareness that she had been crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her conscientiousness in living out that role.
“I was privileged to be there when, on her Diamond Jubilee visit to Enniskillen, she walked the twenty yards from the Church of Ireland Cathedral of St Macartin and into St Michael’s Roman Catholic church. Barely a hundred paces, but a walk which covered countless miles in the long and unfinished journey of peace on these islands.
“Her affection for Ireland as a whole was clear for all to see during the memorable State Visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, and her speech at the State Banquet ranks in political foresight and Christian conviction with the Golden Speech which Queen Elizabeth I made to the House of Commons in 1601. That in the past ‘we would have done things differently or not done them at all’ and that we should bow to the past but not be bound by it have been little gems of hope to many peacemakers in the following years. That they came from someone who had felt the tragedy of Ireland so close to hand and who had lived through the uncertainties of a World War, when the outcome was often far from clear, gave her words an unchallengeable authority.
“We thank God for the life of Queen Elizabeth II, for her faithfulness to Him and to her calling, from which we have gained so much. To finish with some words from the first Elizabeth’s Golden Speech but which find an echo in the life of Queen Elizabeth II, ‘… and we do confess that we passed not so much to be a Queen, as to be a Queen of such subjects … for whom we would willingly lose our life, ere see such to perish. I bless God that he hath never given me this fault or fear; for he knows best, whether ever fear possessed me, for all my dangers; I know it is his gift; and not to hide his glory, I say it.’
“The prayers of the people of the Church of Ireland are with the Queen’s family and all who were closest to her. May they know the presence of God very near to them. God save the King.”
The Society of Jesus said: “The Jesuits in Britain join with the country in sadness at the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II, and remember her and her family in their prayers. They also pay tribute to the life of the Queen, her dedication to duty, and her strong Christian faith, which sustained her during her many decades of service to the UK and the Commonwealth.”
The Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Britain, Father Damian Howard SJ said: “No-one could fail to be impressed by Her Majesty’s faithful and selfless dedication to public service. Her Christian faith, about which she spoke so eloquently in the latter years of her reign, was central to her understanding of her role as Head of State. The strength she found in Christ helped to hold the people of this country together in a surprisingly humble way. The Jesuits pray for her in death as they did during her life. May she rest in peace.”
During her long reign, the Queen met British Jesuits on several occasions, in particular visiting Jesuit schools where she heard about the Ignatian ethos that inspires teachers and pupils. “Those school communities remember the Queen’s visits fondly, and join with the rest of the country in praying for her, and her family,” the Jesuits said.