Queen Elizabeth’s death sees Charles ascend to the throne and become King and, as a consequence, Head of State of New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed New Zealanders’ deep sadness at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, describing Her Majesty as a monarch with an unwavering sense of duty.

“I know that I speak for people across New Zealand.”

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, has died at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.

Her family gathered at her Scottish estate after concerns grew about her health earlier on Thursday.

The Queen came to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social change.

A notice confirming the Queen’s death is carried to the fence at Buckingham Palace. Photo: Getty Images

With her death, her eldest son Charles, the former Prince of Wales, will lead the country in mourning as the new King and head of state for 14 Commonwealth realms.

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.”

All the Queen’s children travelled to Balmoral, near Aberdeen, after doctors placed the Queen under medical supervision.

Her grandson, Prince William, is also there, with his brother, Prince Harry, on his way.

The Queen two days ago at Balmoral, with new British PM Liz Truss. Photo: Getty Images

New British Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, paid tribute to the Queen’s “clarity of thinking, capacity for careful listening, inquiring mind, humour, remarkable memory and extraordinary kindness.”

Ardern’s statement issued early today said:

“The Queen was a much loved and admired monarch, whose record reign of 70 years is an absolute testament to her, and her commitment to us all. She was extraordinary.

“People throughout the world will be feeling an acute sense of loss at this time and New Zealanders most certainly share that grief. The Queen was a much respected constant through unprecedented global change.

“The Queen visited New Zealand on 10 occasions, with that notable first tour over the summer of 1953-54 when she and Duke of Edinburgh visited 46 centres and attended 110 functions.

“She was here to celebrate with us at events such as the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games and the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games. She also mourned with us when we were hit by terrible tragedies such as the Tangiwai rail disaster and the February 2011 earthquake.

“I know a number of New Zealanders who had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty were struck by her keen interest, warmth and sense of humour. I remember in my very first meeting with Her Majesty being humbled by her intimate knowledge of New Zealand and its triumphs and challenges.

“I presented her with a gift from a New Zealander who had kept a photo of her visit more than 50 years prior. She recalled where it was taken and even what had made her laugh at the moment the photo was taken.

“We will make arrangements for a State Memorial Service and many communities around the country will also want to show their respects and pay tribute at their own local events,” Jacinda Arden said.

At a 7.30 am press conference, Ardern added: “”This is a time of deep sadness, young or old there is no doubt that a chapter is closing today and with that we remember an incredible woman that we were lucky to call our Queen.

“I think despite the fact there had been some discussion in public around her health and wellbeing, I think despite that, there will be some shock.”

Ardern said police woke her up to give her the news: “I had a police officer shine a torch into my room at about 4.50am this morning.”

“When that torch light came into my room I knew immediately what it meant.”

Constitutionally, on the death of the Queen, the person first in line to the Throne immediately and automatically becomes Sovereign in accordance with the laws of succession, and therefore Head of State of New Zealand. This means Charles, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will become King of New Zealand.

– With reporting by RNZ

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