16 Things That Will Happen Once Queen Elizabeth II Dies
This is one thing the British people—and royal watchers across the pond—don’t want to think about. But the palace has a plan for exactly what will go down when their beloved monarch passes on.
Operation “London Bridge” will go into effect
Queen Elizabeth II has been around for almost everybody’s entire lifetime. At 93 years old, she is the longest-reigning British monarch, having taken the throne at the young age of 25 in 1952. So understandably, it’s hard to imagine what will happen when she is no longer with us. Although her father died at the young age of 56, her mother lived to the ripe old age of 101, so longevity is in her blood. But death is undefeated, and—as is the English way—there are careful plans for the Queen’s passing to assure the situation is handled gracefully, respectfully, and full of the tradition, pomp, and ceremony the Queen deserves. This plan, the Guardian reports, is called “London Bridge.” Read more fascinating facts, and a few scandals, about Queen Elizabeth.
Code words will be spoken
According to the Guardian‘s in-depth investigation, after receiving the news from the Queen’s doctor, the Queen’s private secretary—currently Edward Young—will call the Prime Minister (currently Boris Johnson), and say “London Bridge is down.” Then Britain’s Foreign Office will call the 15 governments where the Queen is head of state and the 36 nations in the Commonwealth, an association of independent former colonies where she remains a symbolic figurehead, to let them know the sad news. Find out the ways Queen Elizabeth sends her staff secret messages.
People will find out in ways both modern and ancient
Once all the really important people know, everyone else across the United Kingdom and the world will find out—you’ll probably remember for the rest of your life where you were when you heard the news. All press outlets will be informed at once, the Guardian reports, with a news release. At the same exact moment and in keeping with tradition, a footman in mourning clothing will post a black-edged notice to the gates of Buckingham Palace. Also at the same time, the royal family’s official website will show the announcement on its homepage. All of this needs to fall into place precisely so that no false info gets out—as happened in recent years when the press passed around a rumor the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, had died (nope, he was just retiring and is still going strong at 98 years old). Check out rarely seen photos of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
The press have their own plans in place
Most major outlets have obituaries and news stories ready to go for public figures who are getting up there in years. As morbid as it sounds, it just makes sense to be prepared—and coverage of the Queen’s death is even more important for the British press to get right. (One BBC newscaster who wasn’t properly informed in time of the Queen Mother’s death in 2002 was criticized for wearing a maroon tie instead of black.) The Guardian reports its deputy editor has a list of prepared stories for the Queen’s death pinned to his wall. Royal experts have already been lined up with news stations to go live on TV. In the United States, we may expect a bit less of a to-do, but not by much as the Queen is well-loved in this former colony.
The bells with toll
In London, the ceremonial traditions for which we’ve come to admire the British will begin. Flags will be lowered to half-mast. Bells will toll in churches around the city. Westminster Abbey’s famous tenor bell, rung in the event of royal deaths, will be heard; as on most solemn occasions, Westminster’s bells will be muffled. St. Paul’s Great Tom will toll as well. Businesses, theater, and some sporting events will likely close or be canceled. People will begin to gather outside Buckingham Palace as the nation enters a ten-day period of mourning before the funeral.
Parliament will convene
The Queen is officially head of state, so the government will also be involved. At the moment of her death, Prince Charles will become King, but to ensure a smooth transition, all members of parliament will gather to swear allegiance to the new monarch. This was also done hours after Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died in 1952. Here are more royal traditions you’ve never heard of.
What happens if the Queen is not in London
The Guardian reports that if the Queen dies while abroad, a plane from the Royal Air Force will send a coffin with royal undertakers to bring her back by air. If she dies in England but outside of London—such as at her private estate Sandringham House in Norfolk—a car will transport her body to Buckingham Palace, where she will be placed in the throne room and watched over by four Grenadier Guards (the ones who wear the big bearskin hats and red coats). Here are more things you never knew about the Queen’s guard.
If she is at Balmoral
The most complicated situation will be if the Queen passes while at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she spends every summer, and where Scottish rituals would take place after her death. She would be moved to Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, then be carried up the city’s Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral for a service before being placed on the Royal Train to London. Her subjects will likely wait along the route to throw flowers and pay their respects as her train passes by.
Charles will take the throne
Several rituals will take place to solidify the new monarch’s position. “There are really two things happening,” one of his advisers told the Guardian. “There is the demise of a sovereign and then there is the making of a king.” Charles is scheduled to make a speech on the evening of the Queen’s death to address the people. The next day, at 11 a.m., Charles will be proclaimed King, and he will swear an oath called the accession declaration. Heralds will read a proclamation throughout the city, trumpets will sound, the flag will be raised back up, and cannons will go off in a royal salute. The coronation, however, won’t happen for months to allow time for a mourning period and preparation of the ceremony. Find out fascinating facts about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
Charles will pick his name
British monarchs are allowed to pick their own ruling name when they take the throne. Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, was born Prince Albert and known as “Bertie,” but he chose to be King George after his father, King George V. Elizabeth had a far easier choice, since her birth name recalls another of England’s great queens, Elizabeth I. There had been speculation that Charles would choose a different name—perhaps George after his grandfather or Philip after his father—because the first two King Charles were associated with the English Civil Wars. But chances are, Charles will keep his given name and become King Charles III. Although there has also been a debate about the title of Charles’ wife, she will potentially be named Queen Camilla.