Queen Elizabeth dies, ending longest British reign

STORY: The death of Queen Elizabeth II has been announced, bringing to an end the longest reign of any British monarch.

Born on April 21, 1926, the princess had never expected to ascend to the throne.

But after her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 the crown passed to her father George VI.

She was just 25 when she became Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 on the death of father. She was crowned the next year in Westminster Abbey.

Winston Churchill was the first of her 14 prime ministers. And during her seventy year reign there were 14 U.S. Presidents.

The young Queen Elizabeth spent much of the early years saying farewell to the British Empire amassed by her forebears; from Kenya to Hong Kong to Barbados.

However, she remained the monarch of 15 countries and head of the Commonwealth.

Her own personal union to Prince Philip stayed solid for 74 years until his death in April 2021.

The couple had four children, beginning with Charles who was born in 1948 – and who now succeeds her to the throne.

The Queen’s life became one of public duty, attending thousands of official engagements across the globe.

She was loved and respected by many.

Millions turned out to celebrate her 70th year on the throne in June 2022.

The Queen herself had to step back from some of the partying due to recurring health problems.

Commentators agreed she came across as a dignified, down-to-earth and witty woman.

Critics said that she was too solemn and distant; a woman recognized by millions, but known by hardly anyone.

Away from her public duties, horse racing and her beloved corgis were lifelong passions.

As was the outdoors, like her estate at Balmoral in Scotland, where she was more at home in tweeds than tiaras.

Her reign was rarely plain sailing. The 40th anniversary of her accession was a year that she famously described as one of disaster and misfortune.

Three of her four children's marriages had failed, and there was a major fire at her Windsor Castle royal residence.

The death of Charles’ ex-wife Princess Diana in 1997 was even more harmful to the family's public prestige.

In later years, some of the damage was repaired by events like the marriage of her grandson William to commoner Kate Middleton in 2011, watched by billions around the world.

But with Queen Elizabeth’s death, the monarchy's future is likely to face scrutiny like never before.

Polls suggest Charles will be a far less popular British monarch.

And there are other challenges.

Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan giving up their royal roles, amid accusations of racism, has robbed the institution of two of its most popular global figures.

And the U.S. sex abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew, which he paid to settle while admitting no wrongdoing, also left its mark.

The death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth finally hands on the duties and heavy responsibility of the monarchy - a task to which she devoted her own life to maintain its popularity in the face of seismic political, social and cultural change.