It is something we hope never comes to pass, yet we know that even Queen Elizabeth II is not immortal. One day, The Queen will pass away, and Prince Charles will take the throne in her stead, in the job he has trained for since he was born. But what will the aftermath of this terribly shocking event be like? How will the death be announced and then marked with a funeral? In short, what will happen when The Queen dies?
For many years, a detailed plan has been in place in the event of The Queen’s death; within palace walls, it is referred to as ‘Bridge’. This plan includes funeral proceedings, and The Queen’s will, to divide up those belongings that are hers separate from the Crown e.g. Sandringham, Balmoral, and personal belongings.
If Her Majesty has been ill for a while, then the announcement may not come as a surprise to the world. The first people to be informed will be The Queen’s immediate family – specifically Prince Philip (if he has not predeceased her) and Prince Charles, as her husband and next King respectively, followed by her other children and grandchildren.
Even in a world of 24 hour media, if the death occurs late evening, the news may be held off being released until the following morning (around 8 a.m.), until all those who need to be informed, are, and a doctor can come to confirm the death. The likelihood is, it will take a few hours after the event for the information to be made public – it is, after all, a personal family matter, as well as a public one.
Buckingham Palace will release a short statement about Her Majesty’s passing, detailing how and when it happened (if known), as well as where. Nowadays, it may even be posted to the palace’s social media pages, which are increasingly active.
Major news outlets like the BBC, Sky and ITV will be the first to broadcast the announcement, in a breaking news bulletin, interrupting normal programming. You can expect to hear the National Anthem played for the announcement, and reels upon reels of footage of The Queen’s life accompanying the news/ These outlets also have plans in place for such an occasion, including black attire waiting and a script prepared, ready to fill in with details.
Last year, a BBC journalist falsely tweeted about The Queen’s death after she saw a practise-run of such an announcement.
Staff will be sent home – those that aren’t essential, e.g. footmen and maids – while more senior figures will be kept around to help organise the mayhem that will ensue. The Queen is perhaps the most famous woman in the world, after all.
Union flags on public buildings will be lowered to half mast, including embassies and consulates abroad, but the Royal Standard will not – the Sovereign never dies as they are immediately succeeded by the heir. These will remain at half-mast until the morning following the funeral. Church bells may toll on the day, or the day after her passing as a mark of respect and condolence books will also be out in various locations across the UK, as well as embassies for visitors to sign.
Floral tributes will begin to collect outside of Royal Palaces, particularly Buckingham Palace, as people come to terms with the shock of the news.
The last Monarch to die was, of course, George VI in 1952, a time vastly different to now. Then, the BBC suspended all comedy programmes during the 12 days of official mourning out of respect, and the same could happen.
The Accession of Prince Charles as King:
Upon the occasion of Her Majesty’s passing, the accession council will convene at St James’s Palace (the location of the official Royal Court) to formally declare The Prince of Wales as King. Here, he would be asked to swear loyalty to Parliament and the Church of England in front of the council, and in turn, the Houses of Parliament will swear loyalty to him.
The council will also make a ‘Proclamation of Accession’ to be read out on Proclamation Day soon after Her majesty passes away; this will take place in London, Edinburgh, Windsor, York, and various other towns and villages throughout the country.
Queen Elizabeth II’s proclamation read:
Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George the Sixth of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
We, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these His late Majesty’s Privy Council, with representatives of other Members of the Commonwealth, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of all Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to whom Her lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess Elizabeth the Second with long and happy Years to reign over us.
– so we can expect something of a similar vein for the next King.
Charles is not expected to take another regnal name, and so will become King Charles III, and Camilla, Queen Consort, despite the comments made in the run up to the couple’s wedding of 2005.
The words to the National Anthem will be changed (God Save The King!), and new postage stamps along with banknotes and coins will be created. Expect to see Charles to face left, as The Queen faced right.
In due course, Prince William will be invested as The Prince of Wales, and up his work load to reflect his position as heir to the throne. Catherine, his wife, will do the same, and then be titled Princess of Wales. It seems likely the pair will start attending events such as the State Opening of Parliament to learn the ropes, and will feature more prominently at State Banquets.
What do you think to these traditions? Outdated or appropriate? Comment below!