For over 60 years now, Elizabeth II has reigned over the United Kingdom as Queen. Most people alive now have known no other Monarch and as a result, have never experienced a succession. Prince Charles, now 65, is the oldest male heir in history and one of the longest serving Princes of Wales – just what will his succession be like, and how will it affect the United Kingdom and the world.
For me, this article has been something long-in-the-making. I have never experienced a succession and because it’s been such a long time since the last one, I have found it very difficult to find the relevant information relating to it, such as people’s reactions and what changed, though using a variety of sources I hope to be able to piece together at least some insight into how the Prince of Wales’s succession may look.
To start with, it is highly unlikely that Her Majesty will abdicate – I think this much is clear to anyone who knows about Monarchy so, like for most successions in the British Monarchy, it will be upon the death of the Sovereign.
The Queen’s accession happened when King George VI died during the night of 5th-6th February 1952 at Sandringham House whilst Princess Elizabeth (now The Queen) was in Kenya. He was found by the King’s valet in the morning and the alarm was raised – Elizabeth found out 4 hours later that she was now Queen.
As morbid as it may sound, the Royal Household has plans fully laid out for deaths of members of the Royal Family – The Queen’s is codenamed Operation London Bridge and includes detailed plans for her funeral, laid out by her personally.
After members of the Royal Family, the first people to be informed of Her Majesty’s death would be the Prime Minister and the Government; Parliament is required to return to Parliament (if in recess) and to hold a sitting of the house. During this brief sitting, the house will express its condolences at the death of the Sovereign and also to arrange for oaths of allegiance to be taken to the new Monarch by the house.
The Prince of Wales will be urgently informed of his accession, either directly or through his private secretary. A meeting of the Accession Council will then be called to arrange for the proclamation of the new King’s accession to be made and also confirm the new King’s choice of regnal name (Charles III, George VII or another name).
By this point, the public would have been made aware of the accession through special news bulletins interrupting programmes on BBC and possibly other channels – the BBC, like the royal household, also have set procedures for reporting on royal deaths.
Public reaction will be the most interesting factor in the accession. In 1952, the public found out about the King’s death through radio and newspaper – the reaction was one of shock, disbelief but also interestingly – uncertainty, which one would suppose comes with a Monarchy. Monarchy is supposed to represent continuity and a succession is one of the most bizarre occurrences for all concerned.
The following weeks would consist of the lying-in-state of the Sovereign, beginning planning for the Coronation in a year’s time and reorganising the Royal Household for the new King.
It is worth noting though that the Monarchy will not end at the death of Her Majesty (as republicans would have you believe). Many countries’ Monarchies have experienced successions in recent years and whilst it’s not something you’d say was an easy experience and whilst of course it can come as a shock to nations, it is certainly not something new and the Royal Household and Government will ensure the transition is as careful as possible, however inconceivable it may seem to us now, having only known one Monarch.
If you have any comments or questions relating to the Prince of Wales’s succession, or indeed this article, please leave them in the comments box below.
photo credit: tamara.craiu via photopin cc
I have been fortunate enough to have attended the Ceremony of the Keys at The Tower of London on two separate occasions. I think it must be extremely sad when the participants must change the dialogue from “Queen Elizabeth’s keys” to “King Charles’ keys”.
What happens say if the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are on a state visit and HM The Queen dies ????
This is a similar scenario to what happened when The Queen acceded to the throne. She was in Kenya when her father died and she became Queen. Should this happen with the Prince of Wales, he would be informed immediately and return to the UK at the earliest possible time to deal with accession business.
Hope this helps
The same thing that happened when Elizabeth became Queen. Her dad (George VI) died while she was on a State Visit to Kenya with her husband.
Could the New King move to Windsor Castle ???
It’s been discussed that Prince Charles would like to move the court to Windsor Castle when he becomes King, though I don’t think it’s likely – the court needs to be based in central London for operational reasons really. Not impossible, though highly unlikely.
Really enjoyed the article. I wanted to keep reading and reading.
After such a great Monarch, I’m sure this succession will also be a time of uncertainty.
I ave a spanish blog about the british monarchy and know the opinion latinamericans have of Prince Charles is not very positive. Of course the opinion that counts is the one of the UK, but I really wish the entire world can embrace him as a new monarch when the time comes (hopefully not soon).
This article http://goo.gl/qEfbEa had very interesting comments in our Fb page. Wanted to share it, if your are interested. Google translate it or something
This really is addictive, isn’t it? When I saw that your comment was the last one on this thread, it made me a little sad, since I enjoy it so much. Thanks for providing the link; I’m going to check it out right now!
“Long may she reign
May she defend our law
and ever give us cause to sing
with heart and voice
God save the Queen”
My best thoughts and wishes for the Prince of Wales.
Why does the Royal Household have to stay in central London????
Not that it has to, just it’s unlikely that anything else would work as effectively because London’s where the main business of state is conducted from. It’s accessible and at the heart of the country.
Could the Duchess of Cornwall chance her name when The Prince of Wales becomes King
There’s nothing that says she couldn’t, though it’s unlikely, consorts don’t tend to change their names upon their spouses succession.
Queen Mary did. George V did not like double names so she changed her name from Victoria Mary
Actually I believe she was known by her middle name from childhood, or rather a nickname for it; before her marriage she was known as Princess May of Teck.
Would the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge become the Prince and Princess of Wales ( when HM The Queen dies and the Prince of Wales becomes King???
This title would have to be issued to Prince William at the will of the new King, though there’s no reason why not.
Where would the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also Prince Henry live as ( at the moment the Cambridges live at KP ( also Prince Henry lives at KP ) .The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall live at Clarence House when HM The Queen dies where would the Cambridges and Prince Henry live ???, what would happen to Clarence House?? also KP??. I have heard that The Prince of Wales wants a more smaller Royal Family what would happen to the Duke of York,??, and the other members of the Royal Family ???
They would likely remain at Kensington Palace. There’s nothing that says the heir has to live at Clarence House – Prince Charles has lived at Kensington Palace and St James’s Palace before.
In the ‘smaller’ Royal Family idea that’s supposedly attributed to the Prince of Wales, there’d be less working royals and more focus on the core members of the Royal Family.
It might be that Prince Philip would move into Clarence House, and the Cambridges and Prince Harry would stay at KP. That is what has happened in the past, and what will probably happen in the future. It is also said that Prince Philip might move into Frogmore house, Windsor, if he were to outlive the Queen.
Before the death of King George VI, Prince Philip and then-Princess Elizabeth lived at Clarence House, after having it extensively redecorated. I’ve read that he and his young family were very comfortable there, and that he wanted it to be the royal family’s home. He proposed using Buckingham Palace as “the office,” but that Winston Churchill was quite shocked at the idea, and told him that was out of the question.
Maybe Prince Philip would like the idea of returning to Clarence House?
That’s true, it’s quite possible. The Queen Mother moved to Clarence House shortly after the death of George VI.
Frogmore House is being prepped for Prince Philip
Doesn’t Prince Harry live at Clarence House now?
He lives at Kensington Palace.
When would the new King and new Queen crowned ??? a
About a year after acceding.
If Prince Philip never became ‘King’ and Kate would most likely not become ‘Princess’ then why would Camilla be allowed the title ‘Queen’? There is only one Queen and no one can follow in her footsteps. Just sayin’…
Prince Philip didn’t become King because in the UK, a wife takes their husbands style unless theirs is higher, but not the other way around. Kate won’t be a princess because it’s a title reserved for royalty-by-birth and Camilla will be Queen because she’ll take the female form of her husband’s title, though she’ll possibly be known by a different title, like she is now ‘Duchess of Cornwall’.
Wasn’t the elder Duchess of Gloucester given the title “Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester” after her husband’s death?
Forgive me if I’m a bit confused, but then I’m an American and have been wrong about royal titles before.
So my question is about Catherine not becoming Princess Catherine. When HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother passed away, the Garter Principal King of Arms read a list of her titles and started with: “Princess Elizabeth, Queen Dowager and Queen Mother…” Now, we all know that prior to her marriage to The Duke of York (later King George VI), she was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, youngest daughter of an Earl. Why was she called Princess, if she was never a princess in her own right? Does this change upon her accession as Queen Consort? If so, would not Catherine become, upon her accession as Queen Consort become a Princess of the United Kingdom in her own right? Would not the same hold true for Camilla? Please let us know.
Wasn’t the Duke of York also Prince George? That would be why the Queen Mother was Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of York?
If that was the case, then Catherine would be Princess Catherine instead of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. The Palace was very specific on that issue.
When the Queen Mother married her husband in 1923, he was Prince Albert, Duke of York. She was then known as HRH the Duchess of York. If he had died before he became King at the time of Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936, she would probably been given the title of HRH Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of York.
The Duke of York’s younger brother was Prince George, Duke of Kent, who died in an airplane crash in the early 1940’s.
When Prince George, Duke of Kent died, his wife continued to be known as HRH The Duchess of Kent until her son married in 1961. Conventionally, she would have become HRH The Dowager Duchess of Kent, though The Queen gave her permission to use the title Princess Marina – this is rare and the title was never officially granted. I don’t envisage any sort of situation arising with the present Duchess of Cambridge.
The Dowager Duchess of Kent was born a princess, though – Princess Marina of Greece. Although it was somewhat ubnconventional, the Queen didn’t actually make her a princess, she just allowed her to revert to a former title (which she had actually been entitled to use during her marriage as well, since a wife is allowed to retain her title if it is higher or equal to her husband’s).
Catherine is already a Princess of the United Kingdom. As a royal duchess, she already carries the rank of Princess, and this was entered on Prince George’s birth certificate has his mother’s occupation.
If William should die now, she would probably be given the title HRH Princess Catherine of Cambridge.
If William died after Prince Charles became King, and if he had not yet given William the title of Prince of Wales (which would be a very short window of time, I’m sure), she would be HRH Princess Catherine of Cornwall and Cambridge.
If William died while he was Prince of Wales, she would almost be known as HRH Princess Catherine of Wales.
However, if he dies while King, which is much more likely than the other situations I listed above, she would be HM Queen Catherine.
Please correct me if I’m wrong.
She’s a Princess by Marriage, in other words she is Princess William. This is why she was referred to as a Princess of Prince George’s birth certificate. If William died, she’d formally become HRH The Dowager Duchess of Cambridge.
She would not become Princess Catherine of Cambridge/Wales/Cornwall because she’s not the daughter of the Duke of Cambridge/Prince of Wales/ Duke of Cornwall. Put simply; she’ll never be ‘Princess Catherine’.
She will become Her Majesty The Queen (Queen Catherine) upon Prince William’s accession.
I suppose what confused me were the titles of the dowager royal duchesses of Gloucester (Alice) and Kent (Marina) after their husbands had died.
Didn’t the Queen give them “courtesy titles” that included the word “princess” in their widowhood? Would Catherine not be given a similar title if William was to die now?
I know these situations are very sad, and I don’t mean to dwell on them for that particular reason. I just find the issue of titles very interesting. And thank you for the feedback on the posts I made earlier.
Princess Alice was granted a courtesy title by the Queen after her husband’s death, but Princess Marina’s title is her own (as a princess of Greece).
Princess Marina was a princess by birth. Princess Alice was not, but Queen Elizabeth II granted her the style of princess due to her long years of service. I read somewhere that Princess Alice petitioned HM for the princess style, but I’m not sure.
When foreign-born royals marry into the Windsor dynasty, they can’t use their non-British titles anymore. Princess Marina was known as such after the death of the Duke of Kent in 1942, but it was a courtesy title and not officially bestowed on her by a letters patent. It was the same with Princess Alice, the (dowager) Duchess of Gloucester.
Another example of this is when Prince Philip had to renounce his title of Prince of Greece and Denmark, and take the name Philip Mountbatten. Technically, he wasn’t a prince again until the Queen issued a letters patent in 1957 giving him the title of a Prince of the United Kingdom. From 1947-1957 his title was HRH Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
I’m pretty certain about this, but I’d like Royal Central to comment so we can be sure.
I think Prince Philip had to renounce his Greek citizenship and title because he was a man, marrying the eventual sovereign, and could have no other allegiances before that one. Although he wasn’t in direct line of succession for the Greek throne, there could be no chances taken that the two crowns might be merged.
I don’t believe they required foreign princesses to renounce their titles though, particularly prior to WWII, since that was (to put it bluntly) a good part of their worth as royal brides.
As mother of the heir she is legally a princess in her own right, but HRH Princess X is reserved for Blood Royal, even Diana said that.
Her title has nothing to do with her being the mother of an heir and she’s not a Princess in her own right. She is Princess William through marriage, but you’re right that the title of Princess [NAME] is reserved for those of the blood royal.
No The Queen allowed the Royal Standard on her coffin and issues a press release at the Death of Diana stating she was a member of the royal family with all the rights and privileges of the mother of the king. She also received Civil List and apartment at Kensington Palace after the divorce. She was in legal theory a princess of the UK, using transference of logic the same for Kate. However not being Blood Royal she isn’t HRH Princess
I’m not really sure what your point is? Diana was never a Princess in her own right either – when married, she was a Princess by marriage (Princess Charles) and after her divorce, under the 1996 letters patent she simply lost the style HRH, never a princess in her own right, and neither is the Duchess of Cambridge.
Did the Queen issue a press release saying that Diana was a member of the Royal Family at the time of her death? I wasn’t aware of any such announcement.
As far as I’m aware there was no such announcement – her ceremonial funeral was accorded in respect of her popularity, she was divorced from Prince Charles at the time of her death so wasn’t a member of the family.
Diana was a Princess twice-over (during her marriage), since Charles was a Prince twice-over. He was born Royal – giving him the title of Prince… but he was also made Prince of Wales via an investiture. I believe these are two different ‘Prince/Princess’ titles. The Duchess of Cambridge is Prince William via her marriage to a blood Royal, but I believe she will still become Princess of Wales when William is invested as Prince of Wales in place of his father.
Yep, I think that’s a fair summary ^
Thank you for the speedy response. This stuff can be so confusing. I really appreciate this website and all of the information I get from it.
Diana retaining the title of ‘Princess’ after her divorce from Charles was done as part of their divorce negotiations. She had HRH stripped, but retained Princess because Charles, Diana, and the Palace felt that as the mother of the future King, she deserved some distinction.
Assuming the marriage lasts.
Thank you for your offer to take questions, and I have one!
You said that upon the Prince of Wales’ accession to the Throne, Prince Harry would become “HRH the Prince Henry/”Harry.”
Isn’t he already HRH the Prince Henry? Or did you mean that the only change would be that he would lose his present designation “of Wales?”
Please forgive a brash American if I have already answered my own question, but I (like many Americans) find the intricacies of all things Royal fascinating! Thanks in advance.
Hello. He is HRH Prince Henry of Wales at the moment. The word ‘The’ in the name denotes a child of the Sovereign, so when Prince Charles accedes he’ll become HRH The Prince Henry and lose the ‘of Wales’ part.
Hope this helps.
I have a question for Royal Central. Is there any truth to the stories that Prince Charles will use the regnal name “King George VII” to honour his grandfather? I know that George is one of Prince Charles’ other names, and that this would be possible. But it sounds like something a tabloid reporter would make up to sell newspapers, IMHO.
Personally, I like the sound of King Charles III. There have already been two Georges and two Edwards in the last 100 years or so, and something different would be nice.
I’d say it’s kind of a toss-up which would be the better choice. Charles II was popular, but Charles I was deposed and executed. On the other hand, Georges 1-4 were disasters, but 5 and 6 were very admiarable monarchs.
Yes, they were! If I was to choose a favourite royal it would be King George VI. He was exactly what his country needed at the time, following the abdication of Edward VIII and during the war. Some historians call him “George the Good,” which describes him perfectly.
http://www.royalcentral.co.uk/blogs/prince-george-king-george-vii-or-viii-12843 here is the article published jsut after Prince George’s birth becuase of such confusion with this.
Thanks for sharing the link, Chloe. I enjoyed reading the article, which I hope will end the speculation.
However, if Prince Charles wanted to take a different regnal name based on one of his other names, I rather like the idea of a “King Arthur.”
I’ve read that when Prince William was born, Charles and Diana couldn’t agree on what his first name would be; hence the long wait before it was announced. Supposedly, Charles wanted to give him the name “Prince Arthur,” but Diana wouldn’t go along with the idea. So they compromised on “William Arthur Philip Louis,” according to the article. So if Prince Charles had gotten his way, there might have been a King Arthur someday!
Another question for Royal Central. The article above mentions the issue of new stamps, coins, and banknotes at the time of an accession.
There has been a change to a more modern image of the Queen on British coins, but the same portrait of the Queen on banknotes for the last 20+ years, and the same Machin portrait on stamps since the 1970’s. Why haven’t the stamps and banknotes been updated with a more contemporary image of the Queen?
Does anyone have any information about this? Thanks in advance.
I think it’s simply a question of whether it’s needed. The overall look of banknotes and stamps has changed little since over the years and it’s not considered necessary really. I doubt The Queen’s image will be changed again now.
In respect of flags would fly at half staff “likely across the world” – that’s a tenuous suggestion. In the U.S., on the death of George, Truman sent a telegram of condolence and the Senate ceremonially adjourned (a formality as it wasn’t meeting to begin with), but only U.S. flags at the U.S.’ Supreme Headquarters in Europe (in Paris), in the occupation zone of Berlin, at Gen. Van Fleet’s 8th Army Headquarters (in Seoul), and at the UN building in New York were lowered. Also, India declared 24 hours of mourning but did not lower their flags. Stalin ordered the lowering of Soviet flags in Berlin, but not in the USSR.
We should expect a similar situation when ERII dies – there will be public displays of official grief and hysteria in states controlled by the ruling family, while others will observe the minimum customs expected on the death of any head of state, whether that of the UK or Bolivia.
I’m sure you’re correct about lowering of flags in the United Kingdom, but I wonder why you’re predicting hysteria?
The past royal deaths, like the old king’s wife, have involved the requisite amount of people rending their hair and sobbing … I mean I know most people shrugged and said “oh, interesting” when the old lady kicked it, but at least the images Auntie Beeb shows are of the required public grief, a la North Korea.
Would the Prayer for the Royal Family at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Prayer Book automatically be updated to “(Philip Duke of Edinburgh(?),) Queen Camilla, William Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge, the Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge”, or would this require action?
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