Queen Elizabeth became Queen of England in 1952, at the age of 25. Today she is 92 years old. The royal family is no stranger to very long life. The Queen’s mother lived to age 101, and her husband, Prince Phillip, is still alive at age 97. With Her Majesty having such longevity, for everyone that is currently age 67 or younger, Queen Elizabeth has been the Queen for their entire lives. That is a very large part of the British population. Royal biographer Penny Juror told Town & Country magazine that “The Queen is such a tremendously popular figure and during the course of her reign, so much has changed so dramatically. There’s not an aspect of life that hasn’t changed, but the one constant in the midst of this has been the Queen, the rock solid thing we can hang on to.” As such, when she eventually passes away, it will be “a traumatic event,” according to Juror.
It will happen eventually, as every person dies. With the angst that is known that will hover over Great Brittan when it happens, what will come next? With the Queen now at the age of 92, all the important players are well-prepared. Buckingham Palace has a plan in place and will be especially able to use it if the Queen dies after a lengthy illness. The British media has also had ample time to rehearse and should be ready when the time comes. After her passing, here are 7 things that we can expect will follow.
7. Code words
The code name “London Bridge” has been established to begin the process once the Queen has passed away. According to an in-depth investigation by The Guardian, after receiving the news from the Queen’s doctor, the Queen’s private secretary – currently Edward Young – will call the Prime Minister 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 as well.
6. National Mourning
Ask anyone who has lost a spouse, parent, sibling, child or other dearly-held family member, and they will tell you that no matter how much you prepare, you are never fully ready for that loved one to pass away. Even if that person has a very lengthy illness and everyone knows they will not recover, that last day of life is still full of trauma and grief. In 2002, when the Queen Mother passed away at age 101, large crowds came to Westminster Hall over several days to visit the coffin. It is expected the same will occur for Queen Elizabeth, and the mourning period is expected to last 12 days. Flags around the world will be lowered to half-mast, and most embassies will open condolence books. There is a chance some business, theater and sporting events may be postponed or cancelled. Bells will toll in churches throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in noteworthy places such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
The Queen is not just a monarch; she is also the head of state. As such, she will be given a state funeral at the end of the 12-day mourning period. She is a dearly-loved and well-respected leader in the international community. This means there will be many people from other nations who will attend the funeral. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior bishop of the Church of England, will preside over the service. It is likely that the service will take place at either St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. Many royals have been laid to rest in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and it is believed Queen Elizabeth II will be as well.
4. Media Coverage
With the Queen being in her position for so long, her passing will obviously be the most important story of that day, not only in England but likely all around the world. All media outlets will immediately broadcast the news, unless she dies during the night. If that is the case, it’s possible that an announcement could be delayed until morning. The BBC is likely to suspend all programming in favor of coverage of the Queen’s passing. It has been reported that comedy shows on BBC stations will be suspended until after the funeral.
There are extensive plans in place for everything to happen at once – a news release to the media, a sign posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace, and a notice on the home page of the royal family’s website. This will keep any false information from leaking out, and provide people with the news through both old, traditional and modern communication avenues. The goal is also to ensure everyone who reports the news has the information. When the Queen Mother died in 2002, one TV reporter didn’t get the news in time and went on the air wearing a maroon tie instead of black, and he was heavily criticized. The British work very hard to observe tradition, so when this reporter didn’t receive the news in time, he was mistakenly identified as breaking with sacred tradition. The next passing of a member of the royal family will be viewed as an opportunity to ensure all the traditions are upheld.
3. Succession and Coronation
We already know who the next monarch will be, as it is a long-standing tradition that the oldest child of the current King or Queen automatically ascends to the throne. In this case, that is Prince Charles, who has been preparing his entire life for this eventuality. He is a high-profile figure that British people know well. This should provide them some level of comfort when he takes the throne.
One thing to keep in mind is that the change is not likely to be made quickly. When Queen Elizabeth was to take the throne after the death of her father, King George VI, the official coronation did not take place for 16 months. There is no set timetable for this transition, and there is no available information on what the timeline for Prince Charles might be. There is a fear that information could leak and cause confusion, as happened in 2018 when Prince Phillip was set to announce he was resigning, and incorrect information leaked that he had died. So information on the next transition is a heavily-guarded secret.
2. Special Parliament session
As mentioned earlier, the Queen is the head of state, so there will be some government activity. While the coronation of the new monarch will not happen immediately, a session of Parliament will be called so that its members can swear allegiance to the new leader. This was done for Queen Elizabeth just a few hours after the death of King George VI.
1. Traveling contingencies
If the Queen is not in London when she dies, this will require some extra activities. If she is in England, but outside London, a car will be dispatched to bring the body to Buckingham Palace. If she is in another country, the Royal Air Force will send a plane to pick up the body. If she passes while at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she spends every summer, there will be specific Scottish rituals to observe that will make the process more complex. The Guardian reports that she would be moved to Holyrood house 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.
The end of the life of Queen Elizabeth II will present a number of challenges for Great Britain. It will be a time of terrible grief and expressions of memories of her long reign. It also presents the opportunity for a smooth, coordinated transition because we have been blessed to have her with us for such a long time. In the meantime, the British people will cherish her for as long as she remains in their midst.