Charlotte Edwards has ended a 20-year England career after "honest and open" discussions with coach Mark Robinson but would have "loved" to carry on.
Made a CBE in 2014, the 36-year-old is the only player - man or woman - to captain England in 200 internationals.
"It became clear that Mark wants to build a new team and I fully support that," Edwards said.
She made her international debut in 1996, becoming the youngest player to represent England.
"I would have loved to have carried on. Whilst I am disappointed that I won't be doing so, I fully understand and respect what Mark is looking to do," she added.
"This is a new era and he wants other players to come to the fore to build a strong team."
But the team has struggled of late, despite the introduction of central contracts in 2014 to help make women's cricket more professional.
After relinquishing the Ashes to Australia last summer, England were beaten in the semi-finals of the 2016 World T20.
|Edwards for England|
|Tests: 1,676 runs from 23 matches at 44.10 average; four centuries and nine fifties|
|ODIs: 5,992 runs from 191 matches at 38.16; nine centuries and 46 fifties|
|T20s: 2,605 runs from 95 matches at 32.97; 12 fifties|
Ebony Rainford-Brent, who was a member of the World Cup-winning team in 2009, said it was the right time for Edwards to go.
"The 2017 World Cup will be here in England and the side hasn't continued that success from 2009," she said.
"It's a difficult decision but it gives the team time to build towards the World Cup with a younger captain in place."
Edwards will continue to play domestic cricket, captaining the Southern Vipers in the inaugural Kia Super League this summer and leading Kent in the Royal London Women's One-Day Championship.
"I leave very proud of the standing in which the women's game is held and of my contribution as a player and captain," she said.
Captaincy 'called into question'
Director of England women's cricket Clare Connor said Edwards made a "remarkable impact" on the women's game, but wants a new captain to "come to the fore".
Connor confirmed 25-year-old vice-captain Heather Knight was among the candidates, with a decision to be finalised before England face Pakistan in one-day and Twenty20 series this summer.
"We haven't kicked on as we envisaged," Connor told BBC Sport.
"When, in professional sport, a team does under-perform and players aren't necessarily playing to their potential, it's the captain, sadly, who is called into question.
"We have a key year now to develop the team under a new head coach, under a new coaching team and to give the opportunity to a new captain to have a voice and take the team in that new direction.
"He (Robinson) was very honest with Charlotte that he was unlikely to pick her this summer because he wants other players to have those opportunities at the top of the order, to be accountable and come to the fore."
"Charlotte has had an incredible career," Rainford-Brent said. "She's done it all and broken so many records.
"But most important is the era she's spanned, from paying for her own blazer right through to professionalism. She should be proud of her legacy.
"I've not met a character like her. I very much looked up to her as a junior and she was a real leader.
"She was straight-talking, a special character and she'll still offer the game so much in other ways."
Test Match Special commentator Charles Dagnall said Edwards was "an absolute pro" and "players should be grateful" for her contribution to the game.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: "Charlotte's achievements in the game are unrivalled and, in many aspects, are unlikely to ever be surpassed.
"She leaves the most wonderful legacy, having inspired countless women and girls around the world to pick up a bat and a ball and play the game she so clearly loves."
BBC Test Match Special's Jonathan Agnew
"Not many people play international sport for as long as Charlotte has. She's been absolutely outstanding and women's cricket has undergone a great transition during her time.
"It's fantastic that they are now professional, but if you're not winning - as England haven't been recently, losing the Ashes and going out of the World T20 in the semi-finals - it's below expectations.
"You have a new coach coming in from the men's game in Mark Robinson and he's looking at a 36-year-old captain and thinking: 'Do we make a clean break?'.
"On one hand there are great benefits to professionalism, but on the other it's a lot more ruthless."
|Edwards' career highlights|
|Made international debut against New Zealand in 1996, becoming the youngest player to represent England|
|Hit her highest ODI score of 173 not out against Ireland in the 1997 World Cup, the day before her 18th birthday|
|Helped England win Ashes for first time in 42 years in 2005|
|Named women's cricketer of the year by ICC in 2008|
|Guided England to victory in 2009 World Cup and World Twenty20|
|During 2013-2014, led England to back-to-back Ashes wins over Australia|