As you’ve no doubt noticed, the death of Prince Philip has resulted in a worldwide response like we’ve seen only a handful of times before. It’s been reported that over 2,000 pieces of content have come off the back of his passing in Australia alone – with Royalists and plain old curious cats alike keen to learn more about the death of this senior member of the Royal Family.
Similarly, interest in Queen Elizabeth II has spiked as a result. Terms like ‘how old is Queen Elizabeth II?’ And ‘how long has Queen Elizabeth II reigned?’ are seeing a jump in search popularity on Google and naturally, there’s widespread curiosity around the topic of what would happen in the case of her passing.
So here’s a little explainer for you
Queen Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926. At the time of writing, the Queen is 94 years of age – though her birthday (her real birthday, not the holiday date) is just around the corner.
She has acted as Queen of the United Kingdom since February 6, 1952 – that’s 69 years. For most of us, Queen Elizabeth is the only British ruler we’ve ever seen on the throne. Her father, King George VI was only 56 when he died.
What happens in the event of Queen Elizabeth II’s death?
As you may assume, there is a very regimented plan in place for the passing of a reigning monarch.
The Guardian reported a few years back that once Queen Elizabeth II has passed, Charlies will become king and the Queen’s private secretary will communicate the news to the British Prime Minister using the coded message: “London Bridge is down”.
From here, the 15 governments where the Queen stands as the head of state (this includes Australia) will be notified, followed by the remaining nations in the Commonwealth.
Formerly, the BBC would be notified first of a royal death but according to The Guardian, this is no longer the case, with the announcement now going out to the Press Association and worldwide media via news release.
A series of ceremonial acts will play out across London
Tradition asks that a footman dressed in mourning attire will attach a notice of Her Majesty’s passing on the gates of Buckingham Palace, and an announcement will be made on the royal family’s official website.
Bells will toll across the city, including Westminster Abbey’s tenor bell, and flags will be lowered to half-mast. Ten days of mourning will commence. During this time, it’s expected the Queen’s coffin will be kept in Westminster Abbey where the public may pay their respects (how this will roll out post-COVID, however, we’re not sure). A state funeral will be held by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In Australia, there are specific rules in place too
Flags will fly at half-mast here in Australia, also. Once the news has been received by the government, Parliament will meet.
According to reports from The Australian, the governor-general of Australia will announce the accession of a new monarch and the Prime Minister will issue a speech. Both are normally expected to travel to London for the funeral proceedings.
The outlet reports that The Australian Defence Force will also take part in a series of gun salutes in correspondence with events in London. A 41-gun salute will be fired from Hyde Park, London.
What is the protocol when it comes to Prince Charles?
Charles is expected to address the nation the evening of the date of the Queen’s passing. He will likely become King Charles III, though he may choose another “ruling” name. It was originally reported that his wife would be introduced as Queen Camilla or queen consort, however, in recent years there have been updates stating she will take the title of princess consort instead. According to The Times, this decision was made “to appease continuing public resentment surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales”.
The new king will be proclaimed 24 hours after the Queen’s death and flags will be returned to full mast. It is also believed that Prince William will take the title of Prince of Wales after this point.
The coronation will occur a few months from that point, allowing for a mourning period.
The list of events is long and detailed and is something we haven’t seen roll out since the passing of King George in 1952. What’s certain is this will be a memorable moment in history, and one that few of us have experienced before.
If you’d like to see more detail, check out The Guardian’s full exploration in its 2017 piece here.
This article has been updated since its original publish date to clarify the most recent reports regarding Camilla’s future title.