Tearful crowds gather outside Buckingham Palace to mourn the Queen

Mourners gather outside Buckingham Palace, where the flag has been lowered to half-mast. Credit: PA

A tearful crowd was gathered outside Buckingham Palace at the moment the Queen's death was announced on Thursday evening.

Crowds flocked to the palace gates under dark rain clouds all afternoon, as the news of Her Majesty's poor health spread.

People waited anxiously under umbrellas in London's drizzle for hours, as the royal family hurried to the monarch's side in Balmoral. There, too, crowds were flocked under downpours, keeping vigil.

When officials carried a notice confirming the Queen’s death to the gates and the flag was lowered to half mast, there were tears and many well wishers sang the national anthem.

One onlooker said the Queen is “all we’ve ever known”. Another compared her to a swan, which are said to die of broken hearts when they lose their mate, because she died so soon after Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years. Philip died last April aged 99.

Black cabs began lined up on the mall to mourn the death of the Queen.

One visibly-emotional taxi driver told ITV's Paul Brand that the Queen was 'the only constant we've all had in our lives'

Annette German, who attended the Queen’s coronation, was among the crowds there to receive the sombre news outside the Buckingham Palace gates.

Ms German, 84, a retired teacher from south London, said the Queen “could not better have dedicated her life” to her people.

A rainbow forms over Buckingham Palace as the flag flies at half mast following the Queen's death. Credit: PA

She recalled: “I was with my grandmother at the coronation and when I heard the news she was unwell, I thought I must be there and I got on a train and got the news as I was just round the corner.

Ms German continued: “I share a birthday with the Queen and I’ve listened to the national anthem every birthday."

Speaking of her shared birthday with the Queen, she said: “It’s a very special. I’ve had that link all that life.”

Earlier, well-wishers descended on the palace, Windsor Castle and Balmoral, where the Queen's family was arriving at her side following an announcement about her health.

Watch the crowds gathering outside Buckingham Palace as news of the Queen's condition spread

In London, a woman laid the first bouquet at the Buckingham Palace just after 5pm, as the crowds gathering under the dark clouds outside began to swell into the hundreds.

More than observers congregated on the stone steps up to The Queen Victoria Memorial, opposite the royal residence carrying umbrellas under a smattering of rain, and dozens were standing beside the gates.

Members of the public sitting on Queen Victoria memorial outside Buckingham Palace. Credit: PA

Despite the size of the crowd, the atmosphere was relatively quiet as many peered through the bars of the main gates.

"We've always known her, she's always been in our lives with all those special occasions," one woman said.

"She pledged her life and has stood by that very word," she added.