It is a sad fact of life that nobody is immortal, and The Queen is no exception. Although very much a taboo subject, one day she shall pass on – leaving Charles to become the next monarch of the United Kingdom. One of the questions Royal Central receives more than any other is what will happen when The Queen died? It has been so long since the last monarch died the procedures have changed a lot. Here we try to explain what will happen, and what will be the likely aftermath.
In the days between Her Majesty’s death and the funeral, the UK will grind to a halt. It’ll cost the British economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks will close for an indefinite period. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to GDP of between £1.2 and £6 billion, to say nothing of organisational costs.
But to focus on the finances is to look at just the tip of the iceberg, below it is an event in which Britain has never seen before. The sheer magnitude of her passing will rupture through normal life. It would mean that the BBC will cancel all comedy shows, and Prince Charles may very well change his name. The death of Diana brought about a huge number of mourners, but the Queen would be mourned on unprecedented levels. The Queen, for being head of state for 16 nations would be mourned in the hundreds of millions, if not billions considering 2.5 billion people watched Diana’s funeral, the Queen’s funeral would easily exceed 3 billion! The death of the Queen would be a shock to the entire world, very few people have known the world without the Queen – and without her, very uncertain times would lie ahead.
Much depends on the nature of her Majesty’s passing. If it was expected and HM died overnight, it would be announced first thing in the morning. Otherwise, there would be an interruption of the news, which the BBC would do, as well as other channels. Inside Buckingham Palace, arrangements for after the Queen’s passing and the subsequent succession are known as the “Bridge.” However, if she died in unexpected circumstances (like that of Diana) the news would spread uncontrollably, news crews would scramble to the location in an instant and all of a sudden the death would be covered in speculation due to no official announcement from the Palace. Most staff at the Palace and associated institutions will be immediately sent home from work. The Royal Court has a special staff hotline for distributing urgent notifications and instructions to employees for events if huge magnitude such as this.
When King George VI died in 1952, the BBC cancelled all comedy programmes for mourning after the announcement was made. These plans are still very much intact today, with the cancellation all comedy until after the funeral. This is a very rare event and has only happened once in the past decade when British MP Jo Cox was assassinated in the street earlier in 2016, although comedy shows were only cancelled for one day in this incident. Along with all comedy being cancelled, the London Stock Exchange would close, along with many banks, for a few days. With the logistics out of the way, the day of the funeral, believed to 12 days after her passing, would be declared a national bank holiday in which the economy would possibly lose up to £6 billion.
Due to the Queen’s popularity worldwide, the news story would be top in every nation; it would trend of social media and almost everyone in the world, no matter of geographical location, would know about the death within a few hours of its announcement. Whereas a lot of things are purely speculation, a few things will most certainly happen. Overseas, social functions will be cancelled. The Union Jack flag will be flown at half-mast until after the funeral (this will also happen at home in the UK) and officials will enter a period of mourning. Condolence books also will also be available to sign across the globe. However, a former ambassador has stressed there is a massive amount of uncertainty as to what will happen. It has been more than 60 years since the last monarch died. Society has changed a huge amount in that time. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The accession council would meet at St James’s Palace, to formally declare Prince Charles as the new monarch. This council is not required to make Queen Elizabeth II’s successor “official” however — Charles (barring unforeseen circumstances) will become the monarch from the moment of her passing. There is never not a Sovereign on the throne. This is also why the Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast. While at the Council, King Charles will swear loyalty to Parliament, and to the Church of England as he will also become the new Supreme Governor of the Church.
As the accession council and other politically important meetings are taking place; the Queen will lie in state for the public to file past for one hour only, from a day after her death until a day before the funeral. Before this, both Houses of Parliament will be recalled in order to take a new oath of allegiance to the new Monarch. All MPs must swear allegiance to the Monarch, although some Republican MPs are known to cross their fingers when doing so. Members of both houses will also present addresses of condolences and loyalty to the new Sovereign, a House of Lords spokesperson said, in a format that is yet to be determined. After the taking of the oath by both houses of parliament, both houses will be suspended until after the official funeral, with only a short ceremony marking the coffins arrival to lie and state.
Now after the official business that needs to be attended to, the Queen will have her funeral, in which her coffin will be taken to Westminster Abbey by the carriage for a state funeral. Her funeral will be possibly the biggest attended, and watched in the world, world leaders from almost every nation will be present at the time the Archbishop of Canterbury begins the funeral.
The funeral is expected to be the most protected event on Earth, both military and police will be armed for the occasion with, like the 2012 London Olympic Games There will likely be a Royal Navy war ship on the Thames (for extra military equipment if needed) and the RAF on standby for any terror threat to the skies. Security teams will be working together with the Royal Guards, police and the army to make it the most protected event on Earth, the skies would constantly be scanned, police armed to protect Her Majesty and the estimated three to four million people lining the streets (possibly even more) from any terror threat of any kind, naval, airborne, or land.
With the funeral underway, the Queen is expected to be watched by three billion people worldwide as she makes her way through the streets of London, with two million bouquets being laid for Her Majesty at the royal households.
With her funeral done with, the Queen will then be laid to rest – at a place not publicly known yet, although speculation suggests she may be laid to rest in Balmoral, Sandringham or beside her father at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. After the funeral, the country will then start planning the coronation of the heir, presumably held six months after the funeral at Westminster Abbey. The coins, anthem, notes and the bobbies on the beat would have to be changed to allow for the new monarchs name/portrait to be placed on them.
So in a nutshell, when Her Majesty dies the world will come to a standstill to mourn arguably the greatest sovereign ever, not only to the UK but the world. However, this is just an explainer and going by The Queen Mother’s longevity, in all probability, we will be celebrating HM’s 100th birthday in 2026.