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The Queen has died at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace has announced.
Speculation over the health of Queen Elizabeth II grew intense Thursday morning in Vancouver after federal cabinet ministers repeatedly delayed a planned press conference.
Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was slated to announce a package of measures aimed at affordability- dental care for low income families, tax rebates and rental assistance but the event was delayed indefinitely
Journalists covering the event reported seeing cabinet ministers and a senior aide wearing black or dark clothing.
Like other world leaders, Trudeau had previously sent out a tweet of condolence to the ailing monarch.
“My thoughts, and the thoughts of Canadians across the country, are with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at this time. We’re wishing her well, and sending our best to the Royal Family,” he wrote.
Trudeau had planned to be announcing an affordability package (dentalcare, rental, GST rebates) a half hour ago but it’s not clear when or if that’s still happening. A rather tense atmosphere at the cabinet retreat in Vancouver right now, officials scuttling in and out of rooms.
U.S president Joe Biden told Liz Truss he was “keeping the Queen and her family in their thoughts”, the White House said.
The president and the prime minister were taking part in a video conference about the war in Ukraine.
“President Biden also conveyed to Prime Minister Truss that he was following reports about Queen Elizabeth’s health and that he and the First Lady are keeping the Queen and her family in their thoughts,” a White House statement said.
The fact that the Queen’s children and grandsons, William and Harry, have rushed to Scotland to be at her bedside indicates how serious their concerns are for the health of the 96-year-old monarch.
While she rests and is said to be “comfortable” and under medical supervision at Balmoral, which has long been one of her favourite places, plans have been long in the making for any eventuality. That, naturally, will have included the worst-case scenario.
The logistics of Operation London Bridge, the formal plans drawn up to deal with the death of the head of state, provide for this eventuality.
Code-named Operation Unicorn, the plans in Scotland leaked some time ago indicate that should the Queen pass away at Balmoral, it is likely her coffin will temporarily rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, having been taken there by road from Balmoral two days after her death.
Windsor Castle has been the Queen’s main residence since 2011 and attracts a stream of visitors throughout the year.
The Duchess of Cambridge, who recently moved to Windsor with Prince William, has remained in the town while William visits the Queen at Balmoral.
Kate was photographed driving a car out of the castle’s grounds on Thursday afternoon. It is the first day of a new school for Princes George and Louis, aged nine and four respectively, and Princess Charlotte, who is seven years old.
As ITV’s Chris Ship reports, there has been no update on the Queen’s health for about five hours:
This statement on the health of the Queen is now nearly 5 hours old, but it’s the last update we have had from Buckingham Palace. pic.twitter.com/aAVsHB4VyJ
More on BBC coverage from Mark Sweney and Jim Waterson:
The BBC has suspended programming on its main channel to move to blanket news coverage as concerns grow about the Queen’s medical condition.
BBC One, the most popular channel in the UK, interrupted Bargain Hunt just after 12.30pm to deliver a statement from Buckingham Palace that said doctors were “concerned” for her health.
The 96-year-old, who broke with tradition to remain at her summer home of Balmoral to greet the new prime minister, Liz Truss, earlier this week, has been suffering from “episodic mobility problems” since last year.
BBC One has switched to a BBC News Special until at least 6pm, when the corporation’s evening news programme airs, which is being led by the presenter Huw Edwards. Edwards is dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black tie – in line with the corporation’s on-air dress code when a royal family member dies as a mark of respect.
BBC insiders say there is some relief that the news has broken during daytime with the veterans Edwards and Nicholas Witchell, the corporation’s royal correspondent since 1998, available to lead the coverage.
Yalda Hakim, host of the international news programme Impact on BBC World News, tweeted an apology after posting an announcement had been made that the Queen had died.
Outside Buckingham Palace, the crowd has swelled to several hundred, reports the Press Association, despite driving rain.
Meanwhile, at Balmoral, journalists continue to gather.
More wellwishes coming in for the Queen from around the world …
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the secretary-general, António Guterres’
thoughts are with the Queen, her family and the people of the United Kingdom at this time.
The EU commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said:
My thoughts and prayers are with her. She represents the whole history of the Europe that is our common home with our British friends, she has always given us stability and confidence, she has shown an immense amount of courage, and is a legend in my eyes.
US Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said:
The Queen is an exemplar of steady leadership and a beloved figure around the world. She has been a historic friend of the United States. The decades of her reign have seen a profound deepening of the special relationship between our two countries that has literally changed the world. The Queen, the royal family, and all our friends in the United Kingdom have our thoughts and our prayers.
Australia’s governor-general, David Hurley, said:
Following news from Buckingham Palace, and on behalf of all Australians, the governor-general and Mrs Hurley’s thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family at this time.
The Queen’s health has been monitored intensively throughout her reign, but no more so than in recent years as she has aged and experienced periods of being unwell.
The royal household has its own team of medics, who are on call 24 hours a day. They are led by Prof Sir Huw Thomas, head of the medical household and physician to the Queen – a title dating back to 1557.
Thomas has been part of the team of royal physicians for 16 years and became the Queen’s personal physician in 2014.
The role is not full-time and does not have fixed hours or sessions but Thomas is available whenever he is needed.
Thomas received a knighthood in the 2021 new year honours, and was made Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) – a personal gift of the monarch. At the time of the honour, in an interview with Imperial College London, he said it had been a “busy couple of years in this role,” adding that he felt “very grateful to have been recognised for my service to date”.
While BBC One has suspended its regular schedule (see also 14:59), ITV News is broadcasting a special news programme from 5pm. It plans to air continuous news coverage until 7.30pm.
The White House has said that Joe Biden has been briefed about the Queen’s deteriorating health and that the US president and first lady, Jill Biden, are sending thoughts to her and her family.
“His and the first lady’s thoughts are solidly and squarely with the queen today and her family,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told Reuters.
People have started laying flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace. The first bouquet was laid just after 5pm, reports the Press Association.
Outside the gates of Balmoral estate beneath dark clouds, a handful of members of the public huddle under umbrellas in the lashing rain as representatives of national and international media gather in the gloomy late afternoon.
Vehicles carrying the Queen’s sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, have just driven through the gates after a flight from RAF Northolt to Aberdeen airport. The car with the Queen’s sons was driven by Prince William.
BREAKING: Royal #cortege arrives at #Balmoral, after flight from #RAFNortholt pic.twitter.com/tkcrr9EbRi
Beneath stormy skies, tourists visiting Windsor Castle on Thursday afternoon said they were shocked and deeply concerned at reports there has been a deterioration in the Queen’s health.
Sharon Carter, a salesperson at M&S, had travelled from Portsmouth with her husband, James, to visit the royal town and castle, and stopped to ask why there was a group of about forty TV journalists standing outside the gates.
Told of the head of state’s condition, she said: “It is so sad and sudden. She looked quite well when she was photographed a few days ago with Liz Truss.
“She is so well respected and has always been there for the country. The thought of her not being there is difficult. It is a sad day for the country and the monarchy,” she said.
Hardeep Bains, a 45 year old IT consultant from Slough, said news of the Queen’s frailty will be of concern for the entire country, even those who do not support the monarchy.
“I was listening to the radio today, and they were saying that no one other than people who are in their 70s can remember there being another monarch other than the Queen. That is incredible.
“Whatever you think of the other royals, she has been solid. I hope she pulls through,” he said.