What happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies?
No, Prince William won’t be king ...
God save the queen! Don’t get us wrong, we don’t wish ill upon her majesty. But considering her impact on society, it’s fair to wonder what’ll happen when the U.K.’s longest-ruling monarch passes. Obviously Prince Charles will assume the throne, but a whole string of other events will occur. To put it lightly — it’ll be an event of great magnitude.
1. First things first — Who the heck is Queen Elizabeth II?
She’s only the U.K.’s longest-ruling monarch, no big deal. JOKING — that’s a huge deal! According to Queen Elizabeth II’s bio on the Royal Family’s website, she’s traveled more than any other monarch, has links to over 600 public service organizations, and a rich personal life raising four children.
Full name Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, the queen first ascended the U.K. throne in 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI. She’s lived through major historical moments both good and bad and is still active at the ripe old age of 93.
NEXT: This is why the Royal Standard (flag representing the Sovereign and U.K.) is never flown half-mast.
2. Prince Charles takes the throne immediately after the queen dies
There is always a monarch on the throne in the U.K., meaning Prince Charles will become king immediately, says a Business Insider report. He’s been preparing to take on the job of king for a long time — longer than most royals from the U.K.
Prince Charles will become king the moment of his mom’s passing. “There is never (sic) not a sovereign on the throne. This is also why the Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, unlike the Union Flag.”
NEXT: Here’s what Prince William will do in the case of the queen’s passing.
3. No — William will not be king
Please calm down, everyone. Prince William, Prince Charles’ son, is the second in line for the throne. Some have speculated about “leapfrogging,” but it doesn’t work like that within the British royal family. He IS the most popular royal, according to the Daily Express in 2012.
But succeeding the throne ISN’T a popularity contest. If Prince Charles died, then Prince William would be crowned. Although Charles’ entire life has been prepping for the throne, it’s likely William will be king someday.
NEXT: What happens next depends on how she dies.
4. There’s always a plan, no matter how she goes
No matter the manner of her death, her family, friends, and her fans around the world will be mourning. If the queen passes after a long period of illness, a 2018 report in Business Insider says that plans for announcing the death will have long been planned out.
Arrangements that come after the queen’s passing are called “The Bridge.” In the case of sudden death, the news could get out in a wildly uncontrolled manner — just like when Princess Diana suddenly died in a car accident.
NEXT: Unexpected deaths of royals could cause chaos. Take Princess Diana’s death, for instance.
5. If the queen dies unexpectedly …
The news of her passing could get out “in an unplanned and uncontrolled fashion,” writes Rob Price in a 2018 Business Insider report. This is what happened in the case of Princess Diana in 1997.
Chased by paparazzi, the driver of Diana’s car, Henri Paul, lost control and hit a pillar at the entrance of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France. This incident prompted worldwide mourning.
NEXT: This is why news anchors have to keep black ties on tap at all times.
6. News anchors will wear black
For example, if the queen dies from a long-term illness, the news of her passing will likely be first heard on major TV news networks, says the 2018 Business Insider report. The BBC would stop all its programming to focus on the news of the queen’s death.
BBC anchors always keep backup black ties and suits ready at all times in case the queen passes and they must announce the news. Anchor Peter Sissons was wearing a red tie when announcing the queen mother’s death — it did not go over well.
NEXT: Royal staff members will be ordered to do this.
7. Palace staff dismissed for the day
Rob Price’s 2018 report in Business Insider says that staff members of the royal palace will be sent home, as well as staffers of related institutions. Royal staffers will likely be notified via a staff hotline.
This hotline is mainly for spreading the news to the staff members as well as for instructions for huge events such as the death of a royal family member. This information of the palace inner workings was provided to Business Insider by a former palace staffer.
NEXT: This is what will happen to the rest of the U.K. if Queen Elizabeth II dies.
8. The UK will ‘grind to a halt’ for 12 days
Rob Price writes in Business Insider that the entire country will drop everything for 12 whole days. “The chaos will cost the UK economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks are likely to close,” writes Price in the 2018 report. Lost earnings are worth it for the queen.
Both the funeral and the coronation are going to be formal holidays. “Each with an estimated economic hit to the gross domestic product of £1.2 billion to £6 billion ($1.6 billion to $7.9 billion), to say nothing of organizational costs,” writes Price.
NEXT: The news will only report this.
9. Immediate worldwide news coverage
Considering the queen’s worldwide fame, news of her passing will likely dominate all headlines, newscasts, radio programs — basically, entire news cycles will be dedicated to the queen. “Britain has a massive overseas presence — through its embassies, its former colonies and the Commonwealth,” writes Price in the Business Insider report.
“The British Empire once covered a quarter of the Earth’s landmass, and for a brief, surreal period it is likely to feel as if the empire still exists, as all its former subjects will turn toward Britain for the news.”
NEXT: It’s no laughing matter.
10. The BBC will suspend some of its programming
Remember what we said about the U.K. coming to a halt for 12 days? That means TV programming will be impacted. Viewers won’t be able to watch their favorite comedy shows, because the BBC will stop its comedy shows until after the queen’s burial, says a 2011 report in the Daily Mail.
After the queen’s death is announced on the BBC, “the national anthem will be screened in the backdrop whilst television screens display a picture of the royal,” reads the Daily Mail report.
NEXT: No comedy programs and no way to get your fish and chips, either.
11. Businesses may shutter their doors
The London Stock Exchange will likely shutter its doors temporarily following the news of the queen’s death, writes Price in the 2018 Business Insider report. (It’ll halt if the announcement is made during work hours, however.) Many businesses might drop what they’re doing, too.
So, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to purchase a stereotypical lunch of fish and chips, a pint of beer, or anything, for that matter. It doesn’t seem like there’s a requirement for businesses to close down, however.
NEXT: The Royal Standard will not be touched, but this flag will.
12. The Union Jack will be flown half-mast
Proclamation Day is the day when the new sovereign is announced. The proclamation is first read at St. James’s Palace. The Union Jack (U.K.’s country flag) will be flown at half-mast at 8 a.m., then full mast at 11 a.m. and sunset, read instructions from the Greater London Lieutenancy.
After the proclamation is read at St. James’s, then it’ll be read in towns and cities across the U.K. “Proclamation Day takes place very soon after the Sovereign’s death. In 1952 it was on 8th February, two days after the King’s death,” read the instructions.
NEXT: Here’s what’ll go on with the queen while this is happening.
13. The queen will lie in state
In other words, the queen in her coffin will be presented in a public viewing at Westminster Hall so people can come to pay their respects to their former ruler. The hall is open at all hours except one, a Hall representative told Price during his reporting for the 2018 Business Insider report.
This photo is from February of 1952. The body of Queen Elizabeth II’s dad, King George VI, was laid in state in Westminster before being taken to burial at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, for burial. His coffin is guarded by guards.
NEXT: This is what the “Vigil of Princes” is.
14. The princes will stand vigil for three days
The queen mother’s grandsons — Charles, Andrew, and Edward — stood vigil at her coffin in Westminster Hall for three days. The guards there prior were relieved of their duties temporarily. This formal ceremony is called “the Vigil of Princes.” Price’s Business Insider piece says something similar happened during King George V’s funeral.
Since the Brits are all about tradition and ceremony, the Vigil of Princes is likely going to happen for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. While the queen mother lay in state, over 200,000 people came to pay their respects, writes Price in Business Insider.
NEXT: The entire country will be in mourning — and you’ll be able to tell.
15. The public won’t be able to control their grief
“Throughout this period, there will be a massive outpouring of public grief. It won’t just be somber dress and a minute of silence at sports games — it’ll be a punch to the gut of the national psyche,” writes Price in Business Insider. We saw this when Princess Diana died.
Some estimate about 1 million bouquets of flowers were left at the gates of Buckingham Palace when Diana died in 1997. There were many photographs of Brits hugging each other in the street, crying. It’s a blow to the country when a popular royal dies.
NEXT: We’ll likely see a who’s who at the funeral.
16. The funeral will be a star-studded affair
This photo by Anwar Hussein shows the famous singer-songwriter Sir Elton John performing “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997. Not everyone gets a world-renowned performer at their funeral, unless you were the princess of Wales. Also in attendance at Diana’s funeral were world leaders and movie stars.
Fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld, Catherine Walker, Donatella Versace, and American Vogue editor Anna Wintour were also spotted in the pews of Westminster. Of course, other members of the royal family will attend their matriarch’s funeral, too.
NEXT: Billions will likely tune in to this.
17. The funeral will be broadcast widely on TV
Billions of people all over the world will likely tune in to watch Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on television. Like Princess Diana’s funeral and the queen mother’s funeral, hers is likely to be widely broadcast as well.
This photo by Terry Fincher shows mourners gathered on the Mall for Princess Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997. According to the BBC, millions of people lined up along the funeral procession route on the day of her funeral. Meanwhile, 2.5 billion watched Princess Diana’s funeral on TV.
NEXT: Queen Elizabeth II will have a say in this.
18. Queen Elizabeth II has been planning her funeral
Not many folks get a chance to plan their own funeral (perhaps the idea of their own mortality freaks them out?), but the queen has been putting thought into how she wants the event to go.
Price says in Business Insider that Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has already been chosen to lead the queen’s funeral service. The queen is known to have a “sanguine view of the inevitability of her own demise,” writes Tom Sykes in the Daily Beast.
NEXT: The new sovereign must make a visit to Parliament.
19. Prince Charles will swear loyalty to Parliament
… Or whoever is the new monarch, but it’ll likely be Prince Charles. (Yes, I know how badly you want Prince William to be king but please calm down, Linda.) He’ll swear loyalty to Parliament AND to the Church of England. Charles will also be the Supreme Governor of the Church.
(If Charles was a Catholic, he couldn’t assume the throne.) The Accession Council — councilors, lords, high commissioners, etc. — will make a “Proclamation of Accession to be read on Proclamation Day,” writes Price in the 2018 Business Insider report.
NEXT: They gotta swear allegiance to Charles (or whoever is the sovereign), too.
20. And they’ll swear loyalty to the new sovereign
Not one, but BOTH houses of Parliament (the House of Commons and the House of Lords) will sit and take an oath of loyalty to the new ruler of their splendid kingdom, writes Price in Business Insider. Some ministers — like colorful character Baron Stratford — might cross their fingers during the oath.
In a controversial move, Stratford crossed his fingers while taking an oath of allegiance to the queen. Stratford always maintained that he was wishing himself luck in his new gig as Minister for Sport. (Suuuuure … )
NEXT: What will happen to Britain’s outposts?
21. Britain’s outposts’ future is unclear
Price spoke to a former ambassador for his piece in Business Insider to find out what would happen at the U.K.’s overseas outposts. Some of these places include the British Antarctic Territory, Bermuda (pictured below), and Turks and Caicos. Some of these places may be small, but people still live there.
The former ambassador told Business Insider that the manner of the queen’s passing would help determine what happens at the U.K.’s outposts. If expected, plans would have already been put in place. Unplanned? The Foreign Office will probably receive lots of phone calls.
NEXT: Black armbands might be necessary.
22. What should be worn for the queen’s funeral?
In this photo from Princess Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997, some of the princess’ favorite designers are shown wearing all black. Catherine Walker — who designed the dress Diana’s body was clothed in for burial — Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour wore head-to-toe black.
Other mourners in attendance at the funeral are likely to be wearing all black as well. According to Price’s Business Insider piece from 2018, mourners wore black armbands in public when King George VI (Queen Elizabeth II’s father) died.
NEXT: A special council will convene in the event of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.
23. The Accession Council will meet
A council of privy lawyers, lords, the lord mayor of London, high commissioners from Commonwealth countries, and more will gather to form the Accession Council. The purpose of this group is to formally declare Prince Charles (or whomever) the new sovereign, writes Price in the 2018 Business Insider report.
Of course, the council isn’t needed to make the sovereign official — remember that Prince Charles becomes king as soon as Queen Elizabeth II dies. The council writes a Proclamation of Accession to be read on Proclamation Day. The last proclamation can be read here.
NEXT: New king, new name?
24. When he becomes king, Charles might change his name
If you’re obsessed with the royal family happenings (Prince William fans, we see you), you might know that Prince Charles isn’t a very popular choice for king. If people had it their way, they might want Prince William to “leapfrog” and take the crown before his father gets it.
ANYWAY — royals don’t always use their first names when ascending the throne. Sometimes it’s their middle names. Charles’ full name is Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor. So he could pick from Philip, Arthur, George, or just stick with Charles.
NEXT: The king’s face will be printed on this.
25. There will be a new currency and national anthem
If you’ve ever been to the U.K., you’ve probably noticed that the currency (the British pound) bears the image of Queen Elizabeth II. The British pound always has images of the current monarch on it. According to Price’s 2018 report in Business Insider, portraits of Charles will have already been taken in preparation.
The change in currency won’t take place right away. More likely the change will slowly take place over time as the new currency will slowly be put into circulation. The U.K.’s national anthem will also slightly change. Instead of “God Save the Queen,” it’ll be “God Save the King.”
NEXT: Queen Elizabeth II may be buried here.
26. Balmoral Castle or Sandringham may be the queen’s final resting place
This isn’t for certain, but according to Price’s article, it’s a possibility. Balmoral Castle is located in Scotland, England’s northern neighbor who is part of the U.K. Sandringham Estate is in Norfolk, England. If the queen was buried in either of these places, it would be unique because they belong to her.
Sometimes royals are buried in properties that belong to the crown, not necessarily ones that are their personal property. Alternatively, Business Insider notes that the queen could also be buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor — where her father was buried.
NEXT: Time for Coronation Day!
27. A year later, Prince Charles will be crowned
Although not a popular royal (his ex-wife, the late Princess Diana, far surpassed his popularity), Prince Charles will likely be king at the time of his mother’s passing. It’s been a long time coming — the image below shows an official portrait from Charles’ 60th birthday in 2008.
Regardless of whether you’re team Charles or not, Coronation Day will be an event for the ages. It’ll occur a year after the queen’s funeral. But remember, Prince Charles will have been king from the moment Queen Elizabeth died.
NEXT: How much is this all going to cost?
28. And it’ll cost the UK billions
In this photo, a young Queen Elizabeth stands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after being crowned queen of the U.K. on June 2, 1953. (Remember, she was officially queen in 1952 when her father George VI died.) Also with her are her children Prince Charles, Princess Anne, and Prince Philip.
Also standing by are the Duke of Edinburgh and the queen mother. Price from Business Insider reported that the coronation of Prince Charles could cost the U.K. billions. Similar events have made the U.K. shell out the dough. For instance, William and Kate’s wedding “lost the economy between £1.2 billion and £6 billion.”
NEXT: Here’s why the queen’s initials are “E.R.”
29. Police officers’ uniforms will change slightly
According to Price’s 2018 Business Insider piece, U.K. police officers’ uniforms will change slightly under a new monarch. New insignia on officers’ helmets will be necessary. Right now, the helmets have insignia detailing Queen Elizabeth II’s initials and regnal number (II).
Interestingly, the queen’s initials are “E.R.” for Elizabeth Regina. Regina isn’t one of her given names, but it instead refers to the meaning of the name, which is “queen.” So, they basically mean “Queen Elizabeth.” Her highness also signs royal letters and other documents with these initials.
NEXT: How will we remember the queen?
30. Will there be a statue of the queen?
There are several plinths (heavy bases meant to support statues) in Trafalgar Square in London at the moment. The fourth one is being used to display temporary works of art such as Alison Lapper Pregnant, by Marc Quinn. The fourth plinth could be dedicated to a work memorializing Queen Elizabeth II.
That’s according to a 2013 article by Joseph Watts in the Evening Standard, at least. “Ex-Mayor Ken Livingstone said: ‘The understanding is that the fourth plinth is being reserved for Queen Elizabeth II,’” writes Watts. “‘That’s why we had a rolling program of temporary exhibits there.’”
Others had wanted a statue of Maggie Thatcher there … Considering the former prime minister’s unpopularity, a statue of Queen Elizabeth II is far more likely.