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The Queen died peacefully this afternoon, the Royal Family announced on its social media accounts.

Her son Charles, who is now King, will return to London on Friday.

The British flag has been lowered as a mark of respect for the Queen. People among the crowd outside the gates began crying and taking pictures, while a group of armed police assembled with Palace staff in the grounds.

Former prime minister John Major was among the first of many who have paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II following news of her death.

He said: “For 70 years Her Majesty The Queen devoted her life to the service of our nation and its wellbeing.”