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LONDON – The death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history, now puts the United Kingdom in a situation it has not experienced in 70 years.

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Elizabeth, 96, died Thursday. She ascended to the throne upon the death of her father, George VI, who died on Feb. 6, 1952, after reigning for 16 years. Elizabeth’s reign covered 14 U.S. presidents, and many residents in Great Britain have known no other monarch.

The death of Elizabeth’s father was more of a surprise, as George VI was only 56.

How did the British nation — and world leaders — react to the death of George?

Movie theaters were closed and television programs were canceled as stations covered the event, and Parliament was adjourned in a show of respect for the dead monarch.

Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96

The country had a new sovereign.

“Elizabeth the Second – Girl of 25 comes to the Throne,” the Daily Mail headline proclaimed on Feb. 7, 1952.

George VI died suddenly in his sleep on Feb. 6 at his 20,000-acre estate at Sandringham House in Norfolk, England. The health of the king, who suffered from lung cancer and had an operation four months earlier for a lung resection, had been kept a secret.

“To everybody he appeared to be in the very best of health,” The Evening Standard reported.

King George VI funeral:

Queen Elizabeth II, right and Princess Margaret Rose wore black veils in the mourning cortege for their father, George VI, on Feb. 11, 1952.

George’s father — and Elizabeth’s grandfather — George V, also died at Sandringham House, on Jan 20, 1936.

Elizabeth was in Kenya touring the Commonwealth nations when her father died.

The Evening Standard was the first newspaper to report on the king’s death. Its banner headline read, “The King is Dead,” with a subhead that noted “Peaceful end in his sleep.”

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“The Evening Standard announces with deep regret that the King died early this morning,” the newspaper led in large type beneath the headline.

“The King, who retired to rest last night in his usual health, passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning,” it was announced in a statement from Sandringham House.

On Feb. 7, the Daily Mirror reported that the king’s valet found the monarch dead, writing that “He called softly to his master – but there was no answer.”

The king’s last public appearance was at London Airport a week before his death, The Guardian reported at the time.

Nothing seemed unusual on the day George VI died. The Daily Mirror reported that the king was “out shooting” on his estate early that day.

“He lunched at the Flitcham village hall, and did not return to Sandringham until dusk,” the newspaper reported, adding that the king had “bagged nine hares” during his hunt.

The Duke of Windsor — who, as Edward VIII, abdicated in December 1936, a move that elevated his younger brother to the throne — sailed for England from New York on the Queen Mary.

King George funeral:

The coffin of George VI, draped with the royal standard, was carried by soldiers at his funeral on Feb. 15, 1952. On the top of the coffin are symbols of royalty, a crown, scepter and orb.

Upon the death of the king, the Proclamation of Accession was signed by the Privy Council at St. James Palace and was read publicly.

“Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to call to His mercy our late sovereign lord King George the Sixth of blessed and glorious memory by whose decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary: we therefore the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm being here assisted with these his late Majesty’s Privy Council with representatives of other members of the Commonwealth with other Principal Gentlemen of quality with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of London do now hereby with one Voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now by the death of our late sovereign of happy memory become Queen Elizabeth the Second by the grace of God,” the proclamation read. “Queen of this realm and of her other realms and territories, head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the faith to whom her lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess Elizabeth the second with long and happy years to reign over us. God save the Queen.”

The king’s body was taken to Parliament in London to lie in state. “The Royal bier (will be) erected on the same spot in the historic hall adjoining Parliament where his father also lay in State,” the Daily Mirror reported.

News of the king’s death arrived in Washington in a “priority” telegram from the U.S. embassy in London at 7:05 a.m. EST on Feb. 6.

President Harry Truman, who sent a telegram after hearing of the king’s death, said in a statement that George “was ever conscious of his obligations as sovereign” and was a “champion of personal liberty and those free institutions which ruthless dictators despise.”

“He shared to the end of his reign all the hardships and austerities which evil days imposed on the brave British people,” Truman said. “In return he received from the people of the whole Commonwealth a love and devotion which went beyond the usual relationship of a King and his subjects.”

Truman's telegram:

President Harry Truman expressed his condolences after hearing of the death of King George VI in 1952.

Former President Herbert Hoover called George VI “the symbol of a great democracy, greatly loved and respected by all elements of his people.”

British troops fighting in Korea received the news “in stunned silence,” UPI reported. The soldiers continued to fight until commanders announced plans to mourn the king.

In Vatican City, Pope Pius XII expressed “great sorrow” and sent a telegram of condolences. U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie also sent British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden a telegram.

Leaders from the Commonwealth nations were stunned by the news. Leslie Frost, the premier of Ontario, Canada, said he was shocked and grieved. In Australia, Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies announced the news in Parliament, which promptly adjourned.

Swiss radio paid tribute to George by playing “God Save the King.”

“In this grave hour, the entire Swiss people express their sympathy for the British peoples whom they were always bound in close friendship.”

In the Netherlands, Queen Juliana sent a telegram expressing her condolences. Italy’s premier, Alcide de Gasperi, said that “I, the Italian people and the Italian government join in the sorrow of Britain.”

Hoover expressed the hope that Elizabeth II “may bring another era of greatness to her people.”

Information from online newspaper archives were used in compiling this report.