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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Queen Elizabeth II Dies At 96; Charles Becomes King. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired September 08, 2022 - 15:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C.

For 70 years, her subjects and her fans have been saying God Save the Queen. But this afternoon Queen Elizabeth II, the longest ruling monarch in British history, died at the age of 96. The Royal Family confirmed the news just about 90 minutes ago saying that the Queen died peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Moments ago, her son, Charles, now King Charles III, released a statement saying in part: "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world." We expect King Charles to make an address tomorrow.

Moments after the official announcement this afternoon, the flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff, a similar scene unfolding at the Queen's other homes, including Windsor Castle and the official notice was posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace reading: "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."

Crowds began gathering outside Buckingham Palace this afternoon upon hearing there were concerns about the Queen's health. Those crowds have only continued to grow since the official announcement of her passing. Members of the Royal Family rushed to Balmoral today after doctors put the Queen under medical supervision due to concerns about her health. The group included her heir apparent, Charles and his wife, Camilla, who are now the King and Queen consort, Princes William and Harry and the Queen's other children.

Queen Elizabeth was last seen in photographs released Tuesday, when she accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson and welcomed a new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss. The Queen did not travel to London for the ceremony as was customary, but instead performed her duties at Balmoral Castle.

Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, after the death of her father at the age of 56. She was officially coronated at Westminster Abbey in 1953, with her husband, Prince Philip by her side. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died last year. When Elizabeth's reign began, William Winston Churchill was prime minister and Harry Truman was the President of the United States.

Earlier this year, the Platinum Jubilee celebrated her 70 years on the throne with a parade, a church service and nationwide parties. But the Queen only made limited appearances after experiencing discomfort during opening day events.

Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, she was never meant to be queen. But when her uncle abdicated and her father became king, she became next in line to the throne. On her 21st birthday, then-Princess Elizabeth gave a speech broadcast from South Africa, where she dedicated her life to serving the Commonwealth.


QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.


TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster and Christiane Amanpour who are outside Buckingham Palace in London.

Max, to you first, what is the Royal Family saying about not only the Queen's passing but her legacy?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a shock despite the fact that we've really built up to the moment today, all the indications were this morning that she was - she had passed, frankly.


And then we had a statement saying the Queen had died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and the Queen consort, Charles and Camilla, will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow. So that was the briefest of statements with the most heartbreaking news for the British nation.

I have to say the response here at Buckingham Palace, there are thousands of people coming down here and what can they do apart from stand and look at the palace, even though she's not here, of course. She will be here later in the week. Her body will remain in Scotland for a couple of days as people mourn her loss there.

And then we had the statement from King Charles III, as he will be known. And he said, "The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty, the Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family. We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held."

I think we're really going to get a sense of that over the coming days. I've been told that the King will be making a national address tomorrow night, a recorded statement, and bells will be tolled across England, I know, tomorrow morning and then we'll really start to see the period of mourning be visualized really. We've already got flags at half-staff that I think people are going to really get a sense of what a shock to see as a nation and the world, because she wasn't just a head of state in the U.K., head of states in 15 countries but also the longest serving head of states in the world.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, that's an important thing for people to remember. She has been - her reign began in 1952. She has been the only constant, really, when it comes to world leaders since then.

Christiane, she served as monarch for more than 70 years. To a lot of people, the U.K. and Queen Elizabeth are one in the same, they're synonymous. How deeply do you sense this loss will be felt across the U.K.?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I think very deeply and I think it's probably the last time in any of our lifetimes and beyond that we will ever see this kind of relationship, to be frank. I think that the 70 years that she's been on the throne transcends just about anything that you could even describe. You cover politics shake, this transcends that. There's no such thing as a leader of so many decades in a democratic process.

She was a constitutional monarch. She had a democratically elected prime ministers, 15 of them, but she herself stayed above the fray and was the glue, was the maternal matriarch, was the grandmother and was the example of service and duty. And those are the words that are forever associated with her.

The crowds that are coming out behind me are pretty incredible behind me and Max, because as soon as they heard and this was, what, about 90 minutes ago, the official notice of her death came in and people started to come. So they've got their phones and holding them up like candles, they've been periodic claps and cheers for her.

The Mall, as you know, the famous big huge avenue that is so often the scene of parades, of the carriages of royal events is packed with people coming towards the palace right now. And as we said, and as you said, her reign spanned basically from just after World War II to now.

It's an unimaginable experience that one person has had at the head of her country. And I'll just read you two of the many, many, many, many tributes that are coming in from around the world that speaks to that longevity.

Narendra Modi himself, pretty controversial as Prime Minister of India, he said that he remembered very fondly both his trips here, his visits to Great Britain. And he remembers the Queen showing him the handkerchief, the cotton handkerchief that he said Mahatma Gandhi gave her on her wedding. Just imagine that little piece of history. The German Foreign Minister has also given her condolences and

remembers the Queen as somebody who for more than 70 years and beyond has been associated with trying to knit back relations that obviously came so badly adrift, asunder during the World War and after the Germans pounded the city, pounded the palace behind me, The Blitz of London.

The Queen was a child living through the war in that palace and the Germans are paying tribute to how she helped knit the relations between these once wartime foes together.


So those are just two examples of what she has done and what history she has spanned.

TAPPER: And there are so many people throughout the world who feel a connection to this family and to specifically, Queen Elizabeth. A friend of mine, his mom was born in England and her reaction was she remembered sitting around the living room listening on the radio or rather, I'm sorry, watching TV, to watch the crowning of Queen Elizabeth and in 1953, a year after her reign began and my mom was born in Canada. And her first reaction when I told her was, oh, she didn't make it as long as her mother, meaning the Queen Mother, who lived to be 101. I mean, just information right off the top of her head, the Queen didn't make it as long as her mom. The people have such a deep connection to Queen Elizabeth.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly do, Jake. I was born in New Zealand where there is a strong connection to Queen Elizabeth II and in Australia too, of course. And it's interesting to note that there are republican tendencies in both of those countries. But it's been considered that the admiration and deep respect that those people have to Queen Elizabeth II has prevented any more surefooted moves on that front because they do admire her so much.

And I'm also struck sitting here with Christiane and Max that only just a few months ago, we were here for her Platinum Jubilee, celebrating and cementing her contribution to the world, to the country, so it's fresh in people's minds that's in shock relief what they celebrated then what she means to this nation. So I think that makes it even more of a tragic contrast to be here today in, obviously, the most sad of circumstances.

TAPPER: And Christiane, I mean, one of the things that I think we've all appreciated in the - in watching the Queen through the decades is the role that she provides to her subjects, to the people of the U.K., in terms of having a steady presence during crises, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Look, that's absolutely true and we sort of indicated the history that she's gone through and has lived through both as a child as kind of an accidental heir apparent, because it wasn't really her father who should have been king, it was his brother, who was king, abdicated because of the love of an American divorcee. And then that set in motion her journey to where we are right now. But you're absolutely right, there have been so many ups and downs in

this country, so many crises. And frankly, we're in the middle of one right now, just like so many other countries. The war in Ukraine has created this unbelievable spike in energy prices, as you all know. The inflation is unmanageable and unprecedented. There are strikes all over this nation right now. We have a new prime minister after a really tumultuous and an unbelievable political era under - very turbulent under Boris Johnson.

And it is something incredible, I think, that certainly if I was Liz Truss, how can you ever forget that the very last public duty that the Queen ever performed two days before she died was to formally appoint her prime minister of this country. It's an amazing thing. And the Queen stood there, she was unaided, she was on her stick, smiling, shaking hands with this prime minister.

And where she summons that strength from, and again it's just such an example and an anecdote really to show how she has been there in every crisis and every moment of triumph and joy as well. And again, no matter what happens to the monarchy after her, we're not really talking about the monarchy right now, we're talking about the person who has been this matriarch, even despite her own flaws, and her own stumbles, particularly over the death of Princess Diana, she was able to again connect with the people and remain this unifying figure that transcended politics and partisan divisions that we see all over the world.

TAPPER: Thanks to all of you. Let's go right now to CNN's Richard Quest. Richard, so many people have never known this monarch, never known the U.K. without the Queen.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Oh, never mind so many people, me, I was born in 1962 and the Queen had already been on the throne for nearly a decade. The - she has been a constant in my life from the get go. So there's always a difficulty for when you wear a black tie, when you are broadcasting about the death of a leader because who do you do it for and who would you not do it for. There was no choice for me to date.


It had - to change the tie as indeed many of my colleagues will be doing to black out of respect because the country of which I am part, the country of my citizenship is in mourning. There will be official mourning as we get towards the funeral itself. But for the time being, this incredible feeling, Jake, of introspection, the Queen was always there.

Oh, yes, you'd make jokes about would you live long enough to get a telegram from the Queen when you were a hundred or you'd make jokes about this bit of the Royal Family or what would the Queen's say. You would (inaudible) like that.

She was part of the furniture, she was the fabric of the house and she held it together. Now, that's not to say Charles won't do a very good job afterwards.

But the world is highly uncertain, we are supporting a war, we are helping Ukraine in a war against Russia. Inflation and fuel prices are through the roof. This is the scenario, King Charles III has to navigate. Something, Jake, the Queen had 70 years of crises, that tells you all you really need to understand about where we are now.

TAPPER: I've heard, Richard, lots of praise for Prince Charles or, I'm sorry, King Charles ...


TAPPER: ... for his relatively early activism when it comes to climate change. But obviously, he's had controversies in his past. Are you prepared to accept King Charles III?

QUEST: Yes, for the very simple reason, you don't get to pick and choose your monarchs. If you have monarchy and there's not any illegality about the matter, you take the monarchy you've got. So do I think that perhaps - and it's - do - the other - is there a view that says that William is a more charismatic and Williams the next generation? To paraphrase Kennedy, the torch has been passed to a new generation.

Well, this case it hasn't really, because Charles is in his 70s and we're going to have another period of an elderly monarch. At some point, there will be the question of will Charles abdicate or hand over to William. His mother would never do it. Elizabeth was scarred by the abdication. She took a vow to God which you just played, "I pledge my whole life being long or short." So she was never going to abdicate.

Charles will be a different matter, but that's for a future date. At the moment, the issue is really Charles - King Charles III and remembering the woman and the queen who was part of our lives.

TAPPER: All right, Richard Quest. Our coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth continues next with a live report from Windsor Castle where masses are coming to pay their respects. We're going to also take a deeper look at her legacy after more than 70 years on the throne. Stay with us.



TAPPER: After a rainy afternoon in the United Kingdom, this was the scene outside Buckingham Palace as the public learned the doctors were concerned about the health of Queen Elizabeth II and just a few hours later, the Royal Family officially announced her passing.

It was a similar scene, just about an hour away, in another of the Queen's residences. This one in Windsor where a rainbow filled the sky as the flag flew at half-staff to honor Queen Elizabeth and her legacy. CNN's Scott McLean is at Windsor Castle for us now.

Scott, tell us about the scene out there in Windsor tonight.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake. Yes, so if you just look over my shoulder here, people have left flowers, cards, tributes to Queen Elizabeth. They were - they're laying them a little while ago. We've just watched the crowds swell. The British like to do things in an orderly way and so they've actually put up barricades now moving people back.

And I'll just swing the camera around and I'll show you the crowd that is - they've asked people to lay flowers at a different location, but the people here they're pretty reluctant to do that. And just look at the faces here, it is a pretty somber scene of people who've come to pay their respects.

We're live on CNN, I'm just wondering how you're feeling at this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is very sad moment for everybody in England now. We are very sad.

MCLEAN: What did the Queen mean to you, ma'am? That's okay. That's - I'm sorry for this. What did the Queen mean for you, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was just a very big part of our history and our monarchy and just a very big part of our lives growing up.

MCLEAN: What - how are you feeling at this moment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Queen was everything I've grown up with. She was iconic. She was--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was called Sally Elizabeth, because I was born in the year of the coronation ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... so she's been the only Queen I've ever known and I can't believe it's happened so quickly.

MCLEAN: I mean, she was 96 years old. You must have seen this coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know she was. I know and I am - and we know that she was getting frail. But all of a sudden, she had Liz Truss on Tuesday ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and today she's gone.


MCLEAN: And she looked great on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She looked amazing on Tuesday. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it's just happened so quickly.

MCLEAN: Sorry for your loss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I live in London so it was just ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just happened to be here today, shopping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... to hear - yes, but she's always been our queen.

MCLEAN: Of course.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since I was a little girl, there was Queen Elizabeth. So thank you.

MCLEAN: Thank you for talking to us. Thank you for talking.


MCLEAN: I'm just going to sort of wander through the crowd here if I can, Jake, and talk to a couple of people.

I'm just wondering what you think of maybe a potential King Charles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I don't know really. Just a bit - I don't know, I'm on the spot, I have no idea.

MCLEAN: Well, how are you feeling right now about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really sad, isn't it? It's really sad and just a bit shocking. It's really quick. It happened really quickly.

MCLEAN: Ma'am, just quickly, why have you brought flowers here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, because the Queen has died and we all love the Queen and (inaudible) for a long time and it's very emotional so I wanted to pay some respects to the Queen.

MCLEAN: What does the Queen mean to you, personally?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's been here all my life. All my life the Queen's been here and lots of people here will be in the same position. It will be very, very, very difficult being without her. We all love her very much.

MCLEAN: I'm sorry for your loss.

Jake, what's remarkable to see sort of as we snake our way through the crowd here is just how genuinely emotional people are getting over a woman that they mostly have never met. And you can see there's people just continuing to come fill up this area despite the fact that the police would - rather people go elsewhere a little bit further away from the castle, but people just want to be here. I mean, this is the residence that the Queen is usually at.

Ma'am, how are you feeling right now? How are you feeling right now, ma'am? You're live on CNN.

CAROLL: Hi. I'm Carroll from South Africa.


CAROLL: I just came to pay tribute to the Queen. It's very emotional.

MCLEAN: What does she mean for you as a member of the Commonwealth?

CAROLL: My mum was a royalist. So I inherited her love of the Queen and the family, so I'm very emotional about it.

MCLEAN: Are you here on vacation or you live here?

CAROLL: I'm working at the BMW PGA Championship, the golf tournament. They'll actually close it tomorrow for respect out of the Queen.


CAROLL: And they're going to start again on Monday - Saturday.

MCLEAN: Well, sorry for your loss.

CAROLL: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.

MCLEAN: I'll let you get on with it.

So, Jake, I'll just continue to take you through. The people just keep showing up with flowers. I don't know how people are still able to buy them.

Sir, I'm just wondering how you're feeling at this moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pretty much like the rest of the world, sad. It's just - can't believe it. It's just come out of the blue, literally. Obviously, we know she wasn't well, but it's just a sad day.

MCLEAN: I'm just amazed that you were able to purchase flowers. Is there an endless supply in this country or where did you find them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, literally, it's (inaudible) so there's enough there. Like I said, just - I think everyone just go out and get some and come down and pay their respects (inaudible) ...

MCLEAN: Can I ask your daughter a quick question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, go for it.

MCLEAN: What does the Queen mean to you as a young person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's very special.

MCLEAN: You don't remember anything without Queen Elizabeth in your life, do you?


MCLEAN: Yes. What do you think about King Charles, that must be a big change for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's going to be a bit different now that the Queen's gone and we're going to have a new king in the country. But I hope he does as well as the Queen did, so.

MCLEAN: We can only hope. We'll let you guys get on to laying the flowers. Thank you so much for talking to us.

Ma'am, I'm just wondering how you guys are feeling at this moment and why you thought it was important to come down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the Queen just represents so much about our country and that we feel like it was right to celebrate all that she'd done for us and we want to show respect to all of the Royal Family. (Inaudible) want to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really sad that the Queen died because she did actually quite a lot in her life.

MCLEAN: It sure is and I'm so sorry for your loss, guys ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

MCLEAN: ... for you guys and for your country.


MCLEAN: So Jake, that is just sort of a taste of how the country is feeling here in Windsor.

TAPPER: Scott, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

And just to give some updates, Prince Harry, we're told, has arrived at Balmoral Castle in Scotland where his grandmother passed and where his family has gathered. One quick thing I want to bring up, the last time that the U.K. and indeed the world went through something like this was in February 1952. So unless you are older than the early 70, your early 70s, you don't know anything other than Queen Elizabeth II.

And here is a headline from the Liverpool Echo, this is the front page: The King Passes Away Peacefully in his Sleep, Nation Stunned by Announcement. And you see on the right side there: Queen Elizabeth in Tears. She was overseas at the time and it was - arrangements had to be made for her to fly back to say goodbye to her father and for her reign to begin.


We're going to have more from Britain in the passing of Queen Elizabeth next. Stay with us.