'This is a time of great national sorrow': Lancashire pays its respects to Queen Elizabeth II following her death in Balmoral

Residents in Lancashire have paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, the UK's longest-serving monarch, who has died aged 96.

Queen Elizabeth II has passed away in Balmoral in Scotland, it has been officially confirmed.

Flags at Buckingham Palace and Downing Street have been lowered to half mast.

News emerged early Thursday afternoon that doctors treating the 96 year-old monarch were concerned about the state of her health.

The Queen was surrounded by her children and grand-children when she passed away.

An official plan, known as Operation Unicorn, will now be used to coordinate the passing of the Queen in Scotland.

Hundreds of people have started to gather at Buckingham Palace with some already laying floral tributes.

The High Sheriff of Lancashire, Chairman of Lancashire County Council and County Council Leader have each paid tribute to Her Majesty, following the announcement of her death by Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth II has passed away in Balmoral with her family by her side (Picture by Steve Parsons. Credit: PA Wire/PA)

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Queen Elizabeth II dies in Balmoral with her family by her side

Martin Ainscough DL, High Sheriff of Lancashire, said: “This is a time of great national sorrow and reflection. It is the close of the second Elizabethan era.

“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was one of the most respected of dignitaries in the world.

“She will be recognised in history as a great leader and Monarch of the British Isles and the Commonwealth. We were fortunate that in Lancashire we could also call her our Duke. Her Majesty has had a very special place in the hearts and lives of so many people here. Her passing will be even more deeply mourned locally because of her long devotion to, and interest in, the North West of England.

The flag was lowered to half-mast at Preston County Hall following the announcement Her Majesty The Queen had died

“As High Sheriff of Lancashire, I was appointed by Her Majesty through her role as the Duke of Lancaster, and it's been a great honour to serve her.

“We now look forward to welcoming the new King and there will shortly be a proclamation in Lancashire to mark the beginning of his reign."

County Councillor Peter Britcliffe, Chairman of Lancashire County Council, said: “On behalf of the county council and the residents of Lancashire, I would like to express my deepest sadness following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“As the Duke of Lancaster, Her Majesty had very close links with our county, not least through the Lancashire-based regiments of the armed forces.

The Union flag flying at half-mast at Preston Town Hall

“Her Royal Highness was well known to have had a great affection for Lancashire, particularly the Forest of Bowland, and she visited our county on many occasions, most latterly to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Duchy of Lancaster, when she visited Lancaster and Myerscough in 2015.

“People always turned up in their thousands to welcome The Queen, reflecting the enormous respect and affection that people held for her across Lancashire.

“Her Royal Highness will be very deeply missed by so many people who looked up to her.”

County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We share the country's deep sadness at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

“For more than 60 years she was a constant in most of our lives, providing a shining example of a life lived in dignified duty and public service.

“She will be much missed, but as we look back on her reign with deep respect and affection we look forward with hope and optimism to the reign of the new King.”