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The world mourns Queen Elizabeth II: 1926 – 2022

Clothing, Apparel, Hat Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has died aged 96.

She acceded the throne on February 6, 1952 after the death of her father King George VI, and became an iconic and highly-respected figure to billions of people across the world during her 70-year reign. 

A statement from Buckingham Palace on Thursday 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.”

The Crown passes immediately to her son and heir Charles, who is now King.

All four of the Queen’s children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, travelled to Balmoral Castle, her estate near Aberdeen in Scotland, to be with the monarch, along with her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry.

The former monarch’s health had been deteriorating over recent months which had led her to withdraw from a succession of public engagements, with Buckingham Palace frequently citing mobility issues. 

On Wednesday, the Queen postponed an online meeting of the Privy Council after being advised to rest by doctors. 

Buckingham Palace said that after “a full day” on Tuesday, in which she met outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his successor Liz Truss in Balmoral, the Queen had accepted the medics’ advice.

The Queen also served as head of state in 14 Commonwealth countries around the world, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

She further headed the Commonwealth grouping, which comprises 56 nations. 

With the start of her reign coinciding with the growth of air travel, she was more widely travelled than any other international leader.

Friends in the Gulf

British ties with the Gulf were cemented by Queen Elizabeth II’s six-nation state tour of the Gulf in 1979.  

After their arrival on the Royal Yacht Britannia in the UAE, the Queen and her husband Prince Philip were greeted by the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed, and shown around Jebel Ali port.

The trip garnered great international media attention which in turn broadcast Arab culture and commerce to a wider audience.

Queen Elizabeth ll, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004) and Prince Philip at the Hilton Hotel in Abu Dhabi as part of a tour of the Gulf States in 1979 [Getty Images]

Britain under Queen’s Elizabeth’s rule, played a vital role in the Gulf Arab monarchies’ early state formation through providing security guarantees and support for the ruling families of the region. 

In what marked a break with tradition, the Queen addressed the nation at the beginning of the land war in Iraq on 24 February 1991, commenting: “As a nation, we are rightly proud of our armed forces. That pride has been fully justified by their conduct in the Gulf war so far. As they, with our allies, face a fresh and yet sterner challenge, I hope that we can unite, and pray that their success will be as swift as it is certain and that it may be achieved with as small a cost in human life and suffering as possible. Then may the true reward of their courage be granted- a just and lasting peace.”

Middle East trailblazer

The Queen reportedly spoke on her own initiative after consulting with then prime minister John Major and government ministers before making the broadcast. Since then she has only addressed the nation on four other occasions. 

Today, the UK continues to nurture important defence, economic and political interests in the Gulf. During her time as head of state, the Queen met many significant figures across the Arab world as well as witnessing pivotal changes in the region.

Notably, a shared passion for horse racing saw her forge a close friendship with several Emirati rulers, including Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai. 

Strong Arab ties

The bonds between Britain and the Gulf states remained strong owing in no small part to the Queen’s continued commitment to strengthen ties with the region. 

“My ministers will deepen trade ties in the Gulf, Africa and the Indo-Pacific,” the former monarch commented while delivering the 2021 Queen’s Speech in which she set out the UK government’s policy goals for the year ahead.

A briefing document that accompanied the speech noted that the UK wants to foster “thriving relationships in the Middle East based on trade, green innovation and science.”  

Queen Elizabeth II is accompanied by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al Nahyan at the Mushrif Palace on November 25, 2010 in Abu Dhabi [John Stillwell/Getty Images]

A world in mourning

UAE vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum offered his heartfelt condolences: “We join the world in mourning the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, a global icon who represented the finest qualities of her nation and people. Her incredible lifetime of service and duty to the United Kingdom is unparalleled in our modern world.”

The UK-UAE business Council issued the following statement: “It is with great sadness that we have heard of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. During her 70-year reign she was a loyal and supportive friend to the United Arab Emirates, visiting the country in 1979 and 2010. She also hosted a visit to the UK by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, former President of the United Arab Emirates in 2013.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, greet His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Windsor Castle in 2013 [Oli Scarff/Getty Images]