In December 2016, a year of “fake news” and seemingly endless celebrity deaths, a Twitter hoax convinced some people that Queen Elizabeth II had died. An account with the handle @BBCNewsUKI claimed Buckingham Palace announced her death. The tweet boasted: “Circumstances are unknown. More details to follow.”
Her Royal Highness is 92 Years Old
The news wasn’t difficult to believe because the Queen is 92 and had recently been ill. But the tweet was false, and the account was later suspended by Twitter. However, that didn’t stop her purported death from becoming a trending topic on the site, with some users believing there was a “media blackout” to prevent the news from becoming public.
Her Historic Reign Started in 1952
So what will actually happen when the Queen dies? How and when will the information be revealed? Who will make the announcement, and what form will it take? When will her successor (presumably her son Charles) take over the throne?
Queen Elizabeth II inherited the throne in 1952 at the age of 25 after her father King George VI died. The Queen rules over the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. She has ruled her kingdom for 64 years and at 90 became the world’s longest-reigning living monarch following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in October 2016.
Everyone is on Edge About Her Health Issues
The Queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after surpassing Queen Victoria’s 63-year reign in 2016.
In 2016, the Queen missed a Christmas Day church service for the first time since 1988 due to illness. Palace officials revealed she had been battling a bad cold for more than a week. It’s not unusual for royal watchers to be concerned about the monarch’s health and worry that her time on earth may be nearing its end.
Elderly people have to be particularly careful with their health. Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, 93, was admitted to intensive care due to pneumonia and spent over a week in the hospital after the death of his wife. Older people such as the Queen are less resilient to sickness and disease.
A Traumatic Event for the People
The Queen has had a long successful reign and could be around for another decade (the Queen Mother lived until the age of 101!) However, there will come a day when she passes on and her son Charles takes over her position. So what happens when the Queen dies?
Royal biographer Penny Juror told Town & Country that her passing will be “traumatic” for Britain: “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.”
Announcing Her Death to the World
When the Queen does pass away, Buckingham Palace will be prepared to announce the news, particularly if her death occurs following a long illness. Officials will make sure they have a plan in place far in advance so no one is taken off guard. It is very important that her royal subjects and the world hear the announcement in the most respectful way possible.
While it may seem distasteful, the Palace already has plans for her funeral and subsequent succession because she is such a popular and famous figure. The plan has even been given the code name “Bridge,” reports The Telegraph.
The Media Has Been Ready…for Years
And it’s not only the palace that has already orchestrated its response to her death — the media is also ready for the inevitable event. Several British news networks such as the BBC have practiced how they will broadcast her death, reports The Daily Mail. Journalists want to be prepared, mentally and physically, for her passing.
Believe it or not, rehearsals covering her death have gone back to the 70s and 80s. BBC veteran Jeremy Paxan revealed in his book On Royalty that every six months journalists were expected to go over the procedures for the Queen’s death, according to the Washington Post.
The Queen Nearly Died Once Before
The Queen has had a robust life, but she was once nearly killed by one of her own guards, according to a report by the Times. The monarch reportedly likes to take late-night walks on the palace grounds when she has trouble sleeping. During one such stroll, she scared a guard at 3 a.m. who mistook her for a prowler.
He called out, “Who’s that?” and after realizing his mistake added, “Bloody hell, your majesty, I nearly shot you.”
The Queen reportedly responded, “That’s quite all right. Next time I’ll ring through beforehand so you don’t have to shoot me.”
It’s unclear when the incident occurred or what happened to the guard.
A Long Time Coming?
Paxan wrote in his book: “Long sets of guidelines were produced and laminated in plastic. Elaborate chains of editorial command were established in which people identified only by impenetrable acronyms would refer the news up. … Reporters would be dispatched to empty corridors and car-park basements, pretending to be at the gates of Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace or Clarence House.”
We can’t help but wonder how the Queen feels about all this pomp and circumstance surrounding her eventual demise. Perhaps she’s nonplussed and understands it’s part of the job of being a queen. But it must be a little strange knowing that people have been planning events around your death for over 40 years!
A Dress Code for the Big Announcement
Upon her passing, the news will be broadcast to the people. If the Queen dies overnight, the media may wait until early morning to make the official announcement. When broadcasters reveal the news, the national anthem will play in the background as television screens display a photo of the monarch.
No detail will be spared, including what the journalists wear. Reporters will don dark colored suits with the men wearing white shirts and black ties to show respect. Nobody wants to see a reporter in a bright canary yellow dress announcing such somber news.
The BBC will devote all of its programming to the Queen’s passing and royal news. There will be interviews with people in the know and presentations about the Queen’s legacy. Speculation about her family’s plans and activities will likely be covered.
It is predicted that comedy shows will be suspended from the network until after her funeral in order to honor the Queen.
The Queen’s death probably will not be officially announced on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The BBC is likely to make the first official announcement on its broadcast networks like it did in 2002 when the Queen Mother died.
There will be a 12-day period of national mourning in Britain, multiple reports suggest. Her coffin will lie in Westminster Hall until the funeral, allowing visitors to pay their final respects to the monarch. Britain and countries around the world will fly Union Jack flags at half-staff, and condolence books will be available in international embassies for people to sign.
The Queen will be given a state funeral following the period of mourning. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the senior bishop of the Church of England, will lead the service, which will take place at either Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral.
A Grand Funeral
It is expected that a huge number of people will attend the Queen’s funeral and that it will be televised. It’s likely that her body will be laid to rest in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle alongside her mother, father, and many other members of the royal family.
It is imperative that the British throne never be vacant. In 1952, Elizabeth was traveling in Kenya with her husband Philip when she learned of her father King George’s death. She immediately ascended the throne. She was proclaimed Queen and quickly returned to the United Kingdom where she moved into Buckingham Palace to begin her reign.
The Queen’s Successor
The Queen’s eldest son, Charles, will also immediately ascend the throne. It is a role he has been preparing for his whole life. The Prince is currently 68, and those under his reign will be comforted to have a familiar face take over the monarchy.
Some have questioned whether Charles will pass on the title to his eldest son Prince William instead of taking it himself. During his 64th birthday at a Dumfries House gathering, he joked that he was eager to ascend the throne: “Impatient? Me? What a thing to suggest! Yes, of course I am. I’ll run out of time soon. I shall have snuffed it if I’m not careful.” The Queen made the line of succession official in April of 2018 when she made the following request to the Commonwealth Heads of Government: “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”
An Impatient King In Waiting?
In 2008, Charles succeeded his great-great grandfather Edward VII as the longest-waiting heir in his nation’s history. It has been suggested over the years that Charles has been quite frustrated that he has yet to start his reign. This seems plausible. Imagine waiting your whole life to become king yet you can do nothing to make it happen.
In 1992, on the eve of his mother’s 40th anniversary on the throne, he allegedly told Charles Spencer (his then brother-in-law via Princess Diana): “You are fortunate enough to have succeeded to the title when still young.”
Perhaps he believes younger rulers have more energy? Or perhaps more time to relish the role?
A King’s Life
Royal biographer Junor revealed about Charles: “He is impatient, but when he becomes king, his activities and all the projects he most enjoys where he can make a difference, will be seriously curtailed. He has spent an awful lot of his life searching for a role, but I think he does now feel fulfilled pursuing his various interests.”
In other words, perhaps Charles has come to the realization that when it happens, it happens. Life will change dramatically when he becomes King, and he won’t be able to do all the projects he currently takes on. In addition, his ascension means his mother has died, which will certainly weigh heavily on his chest.
Some Mystery Remains
While details about the Queen’s funeral have already been planned and laid out, there has been little discussion about Charles’ coronation out of respect for the living monarch. A committee has yet to be formed. Many think it would be of poor taste to plan such a celebration prior to the Queen’s passing.
When the Queen ascended the throne over 60 years ago, there was a 16-month gap before her coronation.
The palace wants to be sure that it does everything right, but likely won’t wait that long for Charles’ coronation. The Archbishop of Canterbury and Duke of Norfolk, the hereditary Earl Marshal, will be key in its planning.
At the Queen’s coronation in 1953, she swore her oath and was anointed on her hands, breast and head with holy oil. She wore the Robe Royal and Stole Royal and held the orb and scepter when the crown was placed on her head.
All of her peers removed their coronets, kneeled down, and paid their respects to her. Everyone in attendance shouted, “God Save Queen Elizabeth. Long Live Queen Elizabeth. May the Queen life forever.”
Millions of people watched the coronation on television.
Will Charles’ coronation follow similar procedures? It has been over 60 years since a monarch has undergone the ceremony, but it is likely that many of the same traditions will be upheld.
New King, New Collectibles
When Prince Charles ascends the throne and becomes the monarch there will be a few changes in the United Kingdom. The national anthem will become “God Save The King “as opposed to “God Save The Queen,” and the country will issue several new stamps, banknotes, and coins featuring his image.
It’s likely that stores will start carrying merchandise bearing his image alongside his new title. Royal subjects and fans will eagerly snap up the collectibles of the King.
Charles will not automatically inherit the Queen’s role as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth. The heads of government of the 53 member countries will make that decision, according to BBC.
While she wasn’t universally supported when she married Charles, people’s perception of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has softened over the years. It’s unclear whether Charles will make her queen when he becomes monarch. Newsweek reports that one of Charles’ greatest wishes is that she would be crowned alongside him when he ascends the throne.
An insider revealed that the Prince, “hopes the public will eventually come round” to the idea even though the public has yet to fully accept her.
Camilla was reportedly involved with the Prince while he was still married to Princess Diana, who was beloved by Britain and the world. Many are still upset about the alleged infidelity.
An Uncertain Future
In a 2015 poll, 35 percent of those surveyed said they did not want Camilla to be Queen. Nearly 50 percent said they were in favor of her becoming Queen. At the time of the polling, the pair had been married for 10 years. This means that many people are still upset with Charles for allegedly cheating on Diana with Camilla and can’t move on from the incident.
Charles has the royal prerogative to decide whether or not his wife will be known as Queen Camilla. When they wed in 2005, a statement from Clarence House announced that Camilla would be known as princess consort if and when Charles ascends the throne.
Prince Philip’s Retirement
As a sign that time is indeed marching on for the royal family, the Queen’s husband Prince Philip announced on May 4, 2017 that he is retiring from his official duties and public life sometime during year. Prince Philip is nearly 96 years old. The royals, who are second cousins once removed, were married in 1947.
Shortly after the announcement, the Queen and Philip had a reception and a luncheon with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. “He’s done an absolutely fantastic job,” said Mr. Howard after the event. I’m a great fan of his and I think everybody appreciates what a wonderful consort he is and it’ll continue in that way. Good luck to him.”
Harry and Meghan’s Kids Won’t Receive Royal Highness Titles
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wed in May 2018, making them the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. However, if they have children before Prince Charles takes the throne, their children will not receive the royal titles of His or Her Royal Highness.
This is because the great-grandchildren are through the male line, giving only Prince William and Duchess Kate’s children Royal Highness titles.
There’s Still a Chance Though
However, if Queen Elizabeth II passes away, and Prince Charles becomes King, the children of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will receive Royal Highness titles. They would become princes and princesses as the grandchildren of the new sovereign.
Having only been married for less than a month, if the couple waits to have kids, they would set them up for a higher royal title. There’s always the chance that the couple will choose to keep their future children’s lives more normal and less tied up in royal duties.
Queen Elizabeth II Makes Sure Charlotte’s Future is Secured
With the complex and seemingly sexist nature of the paternal lineage rules, Queen Elizabeth II wanted to make sure that her great-granddaughter received a proper title. Since George was born the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, he was given the His Royal Highness title and his future children will be royal. However, his younger sister Charlotte’s children will not be royal and there was a chance Charlotte would be passed up for the throne in favor of her younger brother.
The Queen stepped in before Charlotte’s birth to ensure that she would be given the royal title of Princess and implement the Perth Agreement to make sure that Charlotte would take the throne ahead of her younger brother.
The False Rumor of Prince William Taking the Throne Before Charles
In 2017 rumors resurfaced that Queen Elizabeth II preferred Prince William to take the throne after her reign. It has been speculated since Prince William and Kate’s marriage that the Queen would prefer the young royal family to take their reign early, as she had.
However, the 1701 Act of Settlement states that the Queen doesn’t have the power to choose who will follow. It also states that the monarch’s heir must be the direct successor. This is a law that the Queen doesn’t have the power to change.
Prince Charles Could Give Up The Throne
While the Queen doesn’t have the power to choose who inherits the throne, Prince Charles has the option to abdicate, and pass up the chance of becoming King. That is, after all, how Queen Elizabeth II took the throne when her Uncle passed it up.
However, it’s highly unlikely that Prince Charles would take the option to abdicate and give the position of King to his son William. He’s been preparing for the role his entire life and has shown great interest in the responsibility.
Prince Charles Wants William To Enjoy Being A Dad, First
Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine told PEOPLE that Prince Charles wants to become King in part, to benefit Prince William. Seward said that Charles, “wants his son to have the chance of a family life before he takes up the burden of kingship. A King has no family life as it is so restricting.”
Seward also implied that Prince William isn’t interested in being the next one to take the throne, saying, “William doesn’t want to be King before his father, no way.”
Queen Elizabeth II Can Abdicate, Too
The rules of the hierarchy of the royal family can be complex and confusing, and sometimes people forget that Queen Elizabeth II can leave the throne before her death. Just like her husband Prince Philip officially announced his retirement from his royal duties, the Queen has the option to leave her position as well.
After having served almost 70 years as Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II may choose to step down before her passing.
What Would William’s Title Be?
When Prince William takes the throne, he will be the first William of the British monarchy. While there have been many King Georges and King Charles, there hasn’t been a King William His Royal Highness, and so William will be able to keep his name.
Many believe that he will become King William V, pronounced King William the Fifith. He does, however, have the option of changing his name to George or Henry if he chooses, to honor the Kings before him.
When William Takes The Throne, Kate’s Title Changes Too
After Prince Charles completes his reign and passes on the role of King to his son William, Duchess Kate’s name will change too. It’s expected that her name will change to Queen Catherine.
Because Kate is not apart of the royal bloodline, if her husband were to pass, the throne would go to Prince George, Kate and William’s eldest son. However, she has a solid position in the royal family as the wife to the eldest son of Charles, higher than Meghan’s role.