Why Are Flags at Half-Mast Today?

The American flag is flying at half-mast at the White House and on all U.S. government buildings, military bases, warships and embassies in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Britain's longest reigning monarch passed away on Thursday aged 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, having reigned for 70 years. She has been succeeded by her 73-year-old son King Charles III.

As a tribute to the late Queen, who met 13 out of the last 14 U.S. Presidents with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson, President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. flag to fly at half-mast until her funeral is over.

Flag at US Capitol Building half mast
The flag at the U.S. Capitol being flown at half-mast in tribute to the later Queen Elizabeth II. OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP/GETTY

In a statement published by the White House he said: "As a mark of respect for the memory of Queen Elizabeth II, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.

"I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."

Biden first met the queen in 1982, when he visited the U.K. as part of a Senate delegation. In June 2021 she hosted the Bidens at Windsor Castle, in a visit coinciding with Britain hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall.

The president and First Lady Jill Biden paid an emotional personal tribute to the Queen following her death.

In a joint statement they said: "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era.

"In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her. An enduring admiration for Queen Elizabeth II united people across the Commonwealth.

"The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity.

"Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock Alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. She helped make our relationship special."

The U.K. has entered 10 days of national mourning, during which time Queen Elizabeth II will lie in state in Edinburgh and London prior to her funeral.

All official flags, including the national Union flag, will fly at half-mast until 8 a.m. the day after her funeral.

The Queen was also monarch of 14 other countries, known as the Commonwealth realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.