Most Britons have only lived under the Queen's reign.
And thousands chose to pay their respects to Britain's longest-serving monarch by gathering outside Buckingham Palace in the pouring rain after the announcement of her death.
Although the atmosphere was sombre, sudden bursts of "God Save the Queen" burst out intermittently from the crowd.
People of all ages and from countries far and wide chose to battle the inclement weather to bid an emotional farewell to the monarch of 70 years.
Some had brought flowers to lay outside the palace gates; others opted to share a toast under their spontaneous purchase en route - a Union Jack umbrella.
All had different, personal reasons for travelling to Buckingham Palace on Thursday evening.
But they all wanted to witness a moment of history.
Sarah went straight to Buckingham Palace after finishing her 12-hour shift at John Lewis. She told Sky News she felt compelled to lay some flowers for the Queen because "she has been strong for so long".
"She's our Queen, she's the only one I have ever known."
Linda jumped on a train to London from Brighton as soon as she heard the news.
"I felt it my duty to be here tonight," she said. "She was such an incredible woman - an inspiration".
Speaking of how her grandfather used to work for the Metropolitan Police around Buckingham Palace, she said: "It is what he would have wanted."
Mohammed, Awale and Alice took pictures of themselves with a Union Jack bearing the Queen's portrait on it.
Awale said he cried at the news. He told of how his friend had been part of a young leaders programme associated with the palace and had met the Queen.
"I just thought she wouldn't die - she has been around my whole life," he said.
Awale, who works in technology, praised the Queen for "making the world better connected".
Alice said she'd made her way to central London for her grandmother, who had wanted to be there herself but has mobility issues that prevented her from doing so.
"She was our inspiration," she said. "I will remember this day forever."
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Collette, Sarah and Nicki changed their evening plans to pay their respects.
"It's terribly sad," Collette said. "We just had to be here tonight."
Noting that the Queen officially appointed Liz Truss as prime minister only two days ago, the group said she "carried out her duty to the very end".
Chris, Aron and Drew laid flowers alongside a letter to the Queen signed by people who could not physically make it to Buckingham Palace but wanted to pay their respects.
"After a lifetime of service, it feels right to be here tonight," Chris said.
"The news is incredibly sad but it was expected at some point - she was 96.
"When I heard the news I just wanted to call all the people I love.
"We brought a card because we have friends who couldn't be here and we thought it was a great way to show respect and gratitude."
Myla and Teddy, aged 16, said they felt they had grown up with the Queen as their parents and grandparents had.
They described the day as "sad" but also "a celebration" because the Queen "lived such a long life".
Others were from further afield but still felt a closeness to the Queen and wanted to visit Buckingham Palace to take in the atmosphere.
Consuelo and Treena, from Chile, said they felt the atmosphere was "special" and wanted to be a part of it.
"She is loved so far and wide," Consuelo said.
"People think of the United Kingdom and they think of the Queen."
Juliette, from France, said she felt today was "the end of an institution".
"I love the royals, she touched all of our lives," she said. "As a woman she was so empowering."
Ange, visiting the UK from New Zealand, was asked by her grandmother back home to place a bouquet at the palace's wrought-iron gates.
She described the Queen as a "loyal servant" to the Commonwealth and said she was "pretty gutted" to hear the news of her passing earlier in the evening.
"You sort of thought she was going to be around forever," she added.
Olga and Jo, from Poland, said it was a "very sad day", adding: "We feel lucky to have been here."
They said they had chosen to lay sunflowers for the Queen as "she was always smiling".
Gee, from London, wanted to pay her respects to the Queen in a "quintessentially British" way - and sat outside Buckingham Palace with a bottle of prosecco to toast her and a packet of prawn cocktail crisps.
"It's just such a moment in history," she said.
Heading away from the palace, dozens gathered by London's bus stops, which displayed portraits of the Queen in tribute.
"What a beautifully British way to mark such a sad day," one woman said.