The man who could be prime minister
THERESA May choked back tears as she announced that she had failed to find a way out of the UK's Brexit hell, and would be standing down as Prime Minister on June 7.
She could have been crying for the country, as the former remainer explained she had tried to fulfil her duty by leading Britain out of the European Union, but had eventually found it impossible.
"It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," she said. "If you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that.
"Sadly, I have not been able to do so."
Mrs May had the Brexit deal she agreed with European leaders last year rejected three times by the UK parliament. Her replacement is likely to face the same problems in finding an agreement among bitterly divided British politicians.
They may be forced to go back to Europe with a new deal, hold a second referendum or face a general election.
The contest for a new Conservative leader - who will automatically become the new UK prime minister - will begin after Mrs May steps down on June 7, following Donald Trump's state visit to the troubled nation.
But the contenders had begun staking their claims to the position even before the prime minister had conceded defeat.
Former foreign secretary and Brexiteer Boris Johnson is the frontrunner, and has made no secret of his desire for the top job.
He claims he is the only person who can beat both Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Brexit Party's Nigel Farage - a powerful argument for government MPs concerned about their future.
The ex-mayor of London is popular with rank-and-file Conservatives, but a controversial figure after he led the Vote Leave campaign to victory in the EU referendum.
The Eton schoolboy, born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, rose to international fame during his stint as London mayor. He was popular with the public thanks to his jovial personality, the introduction of the city's "Boris bikes" and his entertaining gaffes.
But the self-titled "prat on a zipwire" is no joke. The messy blonde thatch of hair crowns a highly ambitious and powerful figure, who supplements his $150,000 MP's salary with a $450,000 income from a UK Telegraph column.
He was been slammed by London's black cab drivers for failing to regulate Uber in the city and was filmed yelling at one to "f*** off and die, and not in that order" in 2015.
His high-profile family was divided over the Brexit referendum, with his father Stanley and siblings, Rachel and Jo, backing Remain.
Mr Johnson ran a disastrous leadership campaign in 2016, when he was seen as a leading contender to replace David Cameron but was reportedly woefully disorganised, playing cricket instead of campaigning. He pulled out of the race and Mrs May was eventually left as the sole candidate.
The 54-year-old resigned as foreign secretary in July because of his unhappiness with Mrs May's Brexit plans.
He appears determined to succeed this time, and has been meeting with aides to sketch out a strategy, which is likely to focus on more funding for the NHS, a tougher stance on law - and pushing through a hard line Brexit.
On a personal note, it has been a tumultuous year, with the outspoken politician announcing his split from barrister wife Marina Wheeler, with whom he has four children, in September. He also has a child from an extramarital affair.
Their four-bedroom home in the exclusive borough of Islington is on the market for $6.9 million, and he is currently living with girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, 31, at a south London apartment.
Mr Johnson is expected to face competition from a large field of candidates for the poisoned chalice of UK Prime Minister.
One is former House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, a one-time May ally who quit earlier this week and all but sealed the prime minister's fate. The 56-year-old was in what became a two-woman race with Mrs May in 2016, but dropped out before the vote, in part because of a backlash against comments in which she suggested she had more of a stake in the future than Mrs May because she was a mother.
Ms Leadsom is an outspoken supporter of Brexit, who is seen by many to have been an effective Commons leader during an extremely contentious time.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is also in the running, banking on his tireless advocacy for leaving the EU to help propel him to 10 Downing Street. He served at the helm of the Brexit department for a relatively short time, taking the position in July and resigning in November over a policy rift with Mrs May.
Mr Raab said he left the Cabinet because he could not "in good conscience" support the deal Mrs May had reached with EU leaders about the terms of Britain's withdrawal.
The 45-year-old, a longtime admirer of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, has been highly critical of the PM's approach. He is seen by many as a rising star in the conservative movement.
Jeremy Hunt, who took on the role of foreign secretary when Mr Johnson resigned, has tried to raise his profile by making provocative statements to establish his credentials as a staunch Brexiteer, despite having backed the "Remain" side during the 2016 referendum.
He made headlines at a recent party conference by comparing the EU to the Soviet Union, earning rebukes from some European leaders but perhaps winning supporters among anti-EU members of his party.
Mr Hunt, 52, has held a variety of government posts, including a tenure as health secretary, and played an important role in the widely praised production of the 2012 Olympics in London.
Unlike many of his competitors, home secretary Sajid Javid does not come from an elite background. He is the son of Pakistani immigrants and his father worked as a bus driver and shopkeeper.
He enjoyed a successful career in banking with Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Bank before entering politics and winning election to parliament in 2010. During the Brexit referendum of 2016, Mr Javid was on the "Remain" side but was noticeably lukewarm in his support for keeping Britain in the EU. He has since embraced Brexit.
He has raised his profile in recent months by taking aggressive action to curtail the arrival of small boats carrying migrants across the English Channel.
Other contenders may include Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, chief secretary to the treasury Liz Truss, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt.
After nominations, Tory MPs will vote over several weeks until the candidates are whittled down to two. Then the 120,000 Conservative party members across the country will choose between them.