10 things that will happen when the Queen dies
The phrase “London Bridge is down” doesn’t mean much to most of us. But on the day that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom hears these words, it means something big. It means that life in Britain as we know it is going to change forever. It means that Elizabeth II has passed away. But what exactly will happen when the Queen dies?
Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch that Britain has ever seen; currently celebrating her 65th year on the throne. The day she passes away will be a sad one for everyone. But it’s only natural for us to wonder what exactly will happen once she is gone. How will we find out the news? What will her funeral be like? How soon will her son Charles take the throne? The answers to all of these questions have been around in the form of an extensive plan since the 1960s. Here is what we know so far.
1. Who will get told first?
Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, will bear the responsibility of sharing the news. He will phone the Prime Minister of the UK to inform him or her that “London Bridge is down”, before the Foreign Office's Global Response Centre passes the information around the 15 other countries where the Queen is the head of state and the other 36 Commonwealth nations.
2. How will we find out?
The general public are likely to not know a single thing until Buckingham Palace choose to announce the death. Tradition dictates that this will firstly come in the form of a footman dressed in formal mourning attire who will pin a physical notice on the Palace gates. Secondly, news will come in an alert via the Press Association, before the information is published on other media sites and in newspapers.
3. Will news agencies go into a frenzy?
Of course the Queen’s death will be monumental news for every newspaper and website out there. But rather than a mad panic, news agencies have been preparing for this for years and years. They will have pre-planned stories, films and obituaries (as well as black suits and ties) prepared to go at a moment's notice - the Times is said to have 11 days of coverage ready to go - not to mention that newsreaders have been practicing segments for decades. According to the Guardian, BBC news teams are often hauled in on quiet Sundays to perform mock storylines about the royals. Apparently, there was once even a fake scenario about Princess Diana dying in a car crash on the M4.
4. The BBC’s bizarre cold war alarm system
Upon hearing of the Queen’s demise, the BBC will activate their Radio Alert Transmission System (RATS). The cold war era alarm system is near mythical to staff who have only seen it work in rare tests or not at all. In addition, blue lights will begin to flash in commercial radio studios and the presenters will put on prepared music lists of sad songs before announcing the news.
5. Britain at a standstill
When the Queen dies, it will send shockwaves around Britain with the country more or less coming to a standstill. The London Stock Exchange will close, potentially costing the economy billions of pounds, TV programs will grind to a halt in order for news channels announce the news, both houses of parliament will be recalled, people will go home from work early, satire comedy will be cancelled until after her funeral. Even life 40,000 feet above ground will be affected when plane pilots take the time to announce her death to their passengers.
6. What if she dies abroad?
Every aspect of the Queen’s death is planned and forethought is granted to where she will be when she passes away. If the Queen dies abroad, a BAe 146 jet from the RAF’s No 32 squadron, known as the Royal Flight, will take off from Northolt with a coffin on board to go and collect her body. However, if she dies in Scotland - where she traditionally spends three months of the year - Scottish ritual will commence and her body will lie in Holyrood house, Edinburgh, and then taken up the Royal Mile to St. Giles's Cathedral, then put on the Royal Train down to the east coast.
7. What will happen to her body?
Wherever she dies, the Elizabeth II’s body will always return to the throne room in Buckingham Palace, guarded by four Grenadier Guards in bearskin hats. After precisely four days, her will coffin be taken via military procession to lie in Westminster Hall, where members of the public will be able to visit to say their goodbyes 23 hours of the day. When the Queen Mother died, more than 200,000 people visited to pay their respects.
8. What about the funeral?
After nine days of national mourning, the Monarch’s funeral will take place in Westminster Abbey. Dignitaries and royal families from all over the world will travel to London and join 2,000 guests in the Abbey waiting for the Archbishop of Canterbury will speak. The coffin will reach the doors at 11am where television camera will be waiting among the Queen’s relatives, friends and acquaintances to join prayers and say goodbye. The day will be a national bank holiday for Britain and thousands of people, British and foreign, will be waiting on the Mall for a funeral procession to wave a royal farewell.
9. What about Charles?
Prince Charles will become King the instant his mother passes away and the accession council will convene as soon as possible to declare him the new monarch, as well as MPs and Lords convening to swear their allegiance to him. But the most important thing he will do will be to embark on a tour of four-nations; the current monarch in waiting will tour the country, visiting Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff to attend services of remembrance for his mother and to greet the leaders of the devolved governments as their new King. When he returns to London, he will lead the mourners in commemorating his mother’s life and his coronation will take place a few months after the funeral, another national holiday for the British.
10. And then?
With the new King on the throne, there will also be a brand new Queen. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will legally become queen consort, in accordance with English common law when her husband becomes King. However, there is ongoing uncertainty over her official title and this will not be confirmed until Charles succeeds the Queen. Life in Britain without the Queen will be reflected in the words to the national anthem, which will be changed to “God save the King”, as well as new coins, notes and stamps being minted to reflect the arrival of the UK’s new monarch.
So, can you even begin to envision what Britain will look like without Queen Elizabeth II? After 65 years of royal service, it’s certainly hard to imagine life without her. In much happier royal news, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child.