“God Save the Queen.” It’s an oft-heard expression that, today, has a new — and more heartbreaking — meaning. Queen Elizabeth died today at Balmoral Estate in Scotland, according to a statement issued by Buckingham Palace. The longest-reigning monarch in Britain’s history was 96 years old, and by the rules of royal succession, her passing means that Prince Charles will soon become king.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” royal family officials announced. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.” The royal statement also confirmed the succession of the Prince of Wales, who will soon become King Charles III.
The statement’s message signals clear intent: confirming the death of one monarch and the crowning of another, while also indicating that although the power structure is shifting, the crown — and all that the royal family signifies — will remain intact.
As for what happens next, there is a traditional path for laying a monarch to rest. The Queen’s funeral will likely occur in 10 days. Elizabeth’s remembrance will be a state funeral held at Westminster Abbey, and she will be buried beside her husband, Prince Phillip, at Windsor Castle.
Before that, however, the following actions must be taken (many of these have already been completed):
- The Queen’s private secretary has called the prime minister to announce, “London Bridge is down.” (London Bridge was the code name for the plans in place following the Queen’s death.)
- The news was shared with the governments for which the Queen is also head of state, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Belize, and Caribbeans islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
- The news was shared with all countries comprising the Commonwealth, and a media announcement was issued to the UK Press Association and major global news outlets.
- Alongside the execution of the above, a national emergency alarm was activated at the BBC, alerting all national news anchors that the requirement to wear black upon the Queen’s passing had commenced.
- Flags have been lowered to half-staff and bells are tolling throughout London.
As for Prince Charles, he will formally declare himself King and the Head of the Commonwealth. More than 100 British civil servants and officials will stand as witnesses to this event. (Elizabeth’s declaration took place two days after her father’s death; this was due to the fact that the Queen was in Kenya at the time, and had to embark on a return journey that took much longer in 1953. A similar delay is unlikely for Charles, who, according to Politico, will take the oath at 10 a.m. BST tomorrow, September 9.) On September 11, Charles will tour the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Royal insiders say it’s unlikely that Charles’ coronation will happen before the end of the year. (Queen Elizabeth’s coronation happened 18 months after she took her oath.) When it does, Charles’ wife Camilla will be named Queen Consort, which was the wish of her Majesty as stated at her 70th Anniversary Platinum Jubilee Earlier this year. The new King and Queen will thus become one of several ruling couples in a many thousand-year lineage of Heads of the Commonwealth.
The British public is collectively undertaking a 12-day mourning period marked by changes to staff uniforms, cancellation of televised comedy and variety shows, and updates to the social media profiles of all royal family members, whose photos will reflect the somber mood of the grieving nation.
Plans for the mourning period, which is referred to as “Operation London Bridge,” were established in the 1960s, but have been amended and amplified in the ensuing decades to reflect more modern times. Ever the pragmatist, the Queen herself contributed, over the course of her reign, to the development of said plans. Most, however, were put in place by her heir, Prince Charles.
Though she is gone, she will not be forgotten. On the day of her death, we say “Long live the Queen” — her spirit, her tenacity, and her unwavering 70-year commitment to the crown.