Everything You Need To Know About What Happens When The Queen Dies

Katie O'Malley
·11-min read
Photo credit: Oli Scarff - Getty Images
Photo credit: Oli Scarff - Getty Images

When you think of the UK, it’s impossible not to conjure up an image of Her Majesty the Queen, so synonymous is the 94-year-old royal with the island nation.

Since ascending to the throne in 1952, the mother-of-four has worked as mechanic and military truck driver during World War II, talked politics with 13 prime ministers and 13 US presidents, led 53 Commonwealth countries and welcomed eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

However, when Prince Philip announced his retirement in May 2017 at the age of 96 with the full support of the Queen, it served as a poignant reminder that the famous couple will not be able - or wish - to undertake public duties forever.

On Friday, April 9 Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died aged 99. He was the longest serving consort in British history.

With the UK still in a national lockdown until June 21 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many procedures that are planned to take place following the Duke's death will, of course, need to change. Especially given the UK government's ongoing advice on social distancing to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. However, what will happen when the Queen dies?

Here is everything you need to know about what will happen when she passes:

Where is the Queen during Covid-19?

In March last year, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Queen was moving to Windsor as a precautionary measure amid the virus outbreak.

The royal’s trip to Windsor Castle took place earlier than planned in the year, and she was expected to remain there beyond the Easter period with her husband.

Following her departure from London last March, the Queen urged the country to unite and said that everyone had a role to play in the coming days and months to tackle the pandemic.

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‘We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them,’ the Queen said.

She added: ‘At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.’

‘Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.’

On March 22 2021, it was widely reported that the Queen was planning to give a rare televised address to the nation on coronavirus.

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA - Getty Images

The monarch was thought to have been liaising with the Government on the timing for the speech. Apart from Her Majesty's annual Christmas day address, the last time she made a similar speech was in 2002, following her mother's funeral. She also made rare a rare speech in 1997 after the death of the late Princess Diana and on the topic of the Gulf War in 1991.

Last year, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall were residing at their Scottish home on the Royals' Balmoral estate, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been staying at Anmer Hall, Norfolk with their three children: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Will Prince Charles become king when the Queen dies?

The Prince of Wales will become King following the Queen’s death and will address the nation the evening of her passing. Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cornwall will become Queen Camilla.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

If Prince Charles chooses to keep his own name (royals can choose another upon ascending to the throne) he will be known as King Charles III. It is believed that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will then become the Prince of Wales.

On November 28, 2019, the Sun reported that the Queen would ‘retire’ in 18 months when she turned 94. Her Majesty is currently two years younger than the age at which Prince Philip withdrew from public life.

It was widely believed that Prince Charles would step up to take on the Queen’s duties in 2021.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

A royal source reportedly told the publication at the time: ‘Planning for Charles to become king has been going on for some time. A transition is plainly already underway. Her Majesty is in her nineties and can understandably only do so much.’

In November 2019, the 71-year-old took the Queen’s place at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

The Queen has been slowly reducing the number of public engagements she attends in recent years, from 332 in 2016 to a 283 in 2018. Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales has increased his royal appearances, undertaking an official tour of New Zealand in November 2019.

What will happen the day the Queen dies?

A brief bulletin will be published from the Palace in the lead up to the Queen’s death, if it is expected due to illness, or soon after.

On the night of her father King George V’s death, the Palace announced: ‘The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close.’

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

Two days before Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, the institution shared: ‘The Queen is suffering from great physical prostration, accompanied by symptoms which cause much anxiety.’

Where would the royal family go if the Queen died during Coronavirus?

It was previously presumed that, much like most families, the royal family would come together during this time of mourning.

However, during Covid-19, the UK government has advised that those with increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.

Currently, only 30 people may attend funerals in the UK and they must socially distance if they do not live together or share a support bubble.

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

As a result, it is doubtful whether the royal family would publicly be seen in such close contact and directly go against government advice.

In addition, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle - who live in Montecito, California with their son Archie - may find it difficult to enter the UK given worldwide travel restrictions now in place.

The Guardian has previously reported that, following her death, the Queen will be joined by her senior doctor, gastroenterologist Professor Huw Thomas, who will be in charge of who goes in and out of her room and when the information of her death should be made public.

Photo credit: Ben A. Pruchnie - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ben A. Pruchnie - Getty Images

When the Queen Mother passed away on Easter Saturday in 2002 at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, she is believed to have said ‘goodbye’ to family and friends over the phone before she died.

Who will contact the prime minister about the Queen’s death?

According to the Guardian, Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, will be the individual in charge of informing the prime minister of the Queen’s passing.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

The code word ‘London Bridge’ will be used to announce her death to officials, with civil servants expected to say ‘London Bridge is down’ on secure lines.

When King George VI died, the code was ‘Hyde Park Corner’ was used to prevent switchboard operators from finding out.

The Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre will then share the news to the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth.

How will the public know the Queen has died?

An announcement will go out first to the global news agency Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. As per tradition, a footman in mourning clothes will walk out of Buckingham Palace and pin a black-edged notice to the gates.

An easel announcing the death of the Duke was placed outside of Buckingham Palace following his passing on April 9, 2021.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

‘While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background,’ the Guardian explains.

A radio alert transmission system known commonly as ‘Rats’ will also be activated which is a wartime alarm.

In 2011, BBC Radio 1 Head of Music Chris Price wrote on the Huffington Post: ‘If you ever hear 'Haunted Dancehall (Nursery Remix)' by Sabres of Paradise on daytime Radio 1, turn the TV on.

‘Something terrible has just happened.’

If the Queen’s death is expected, the news will spread via the main TV channels first, with all BBC channel programmes being paused to show the BBC One feed, which will show of her passing. Newsreaders will be expected to wear black suits and ties which they keep on standby with them at all times. Indeed when Prince Philip passed away, newsreaders were seen on the BBC wearing black.

Photo credit: Chris Jackson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Jackson - Getty Images

Pilots are also expected to announce the death during their flights and all comedy TV shows will not be shown until after her funeral.

What will happen in the hours after the Queen’s death?

It might sound morbid but news publications across the world have obituaries prepared which will be published on hearing news of Her Majesty’s passing.

Flags will fly at half-mast across the UK (as was the case when the Duke of Edinburgh died too) and it has been rumoured for several years that workers would be sent home early. While this is yet to be confirmed, the public have been advised in over the last year to work from home, where possible, so it is presumed that a large proportion of the work force will already be at home.

The day of the Queen’s death will be followed by a 12-day mourning period. During this time, the Queen’s body will be moved to Buckingham Palace and preparations will be made for the state funeral. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be in charge of funeral proceedings.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

Her Majesty’s coffin will lie in state in Westminster Hall for four days. Previously, this was the case so that the public could pay their respects. However, according the UK guidance during Covid-19, individuals are advised to avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces so it is likely that the measures surrounding a state funeral would have to be amended.

After this period, it is expected that her body will finally then be laid to rest in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Queen Mother and King George VI are also buried there.

Will the Queen have a state funeral during Covid-19?

The UK government advises individuals not to gather large and small gatherings, as well as those with family and friends. In addition, a two-metre separation between people is also advised, so it is unknown how – if at all – a state funeral for the Queen could take place during Covid-19.

Photo credit: Colin McPherson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Colin McPherson - Getty Images

According to The Telegraph last year, the Church of England released their own guidance on funerals, explaining that when it comes to services ‘sadly, those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending in the present circumstances’.

As a result, older members of the royal family, including Prince Charles, would presumably be advised not to attend the Queen's funeral, if government advice was adhered to.

According to the publication, before a funeral, Church of England meetings between the bereaved and the vicar or officiant are now held by telephone or video calls rather than face-to-face.

'If meetings can only be held in person, then social distancing guidance will be followed. Furthermore, the number of mourners “will have to be kept to a minimum”, with only immediate family - who will be made to adhere to social distancing rules - able to attend,' it stated.

What will happen to the economy after the Queen’s death?

The Queen’s funeral and Charles’ coronation will become national holidays.

On the day of the funeral, the London Stock Exchange will close. It’s unknown what will happen to the British economy following her death. That said, Business Insider reports that the national holidays will result in an estimated economic hit to gross domestic product of £1.2 billion to £6 billion.

Last March, the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, as the spread of the virus continued.

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