What happens when the Queen dies

Natalie Cornish
·5-min read

Watch: What will happen when the Queen dies?

After the sad death of the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, on Friday, we witnessed royal protocol quickly swing into action. 

News flashes interrupted radio and TV broadcasts around the world, a message was (briefly) displayed by the gates of Buckingham Palace and the royal family went into 14 days of mourning ahead of his funeral this Saturday (17th).

Prince Philip, who was 99 and the longest serving Royal Consort in history, was the first senior British royal to pass away since 2002. Then, the nation mourned with the Monarch as the Queen Mother and her sister, Princess Margaret, died within just two months of each other.

But what will happen when the Queen passes away? Now in her 68th year of her reign, it's hard to imagine a day when Her Majesty will not be the UK's head of state. But as she celebrates her 95th birthday this month, plans have been in place for a while to ensure her passing is handled with the utmost care.

Here's what will happen when the Queen dies.

Photo credit: Chris Jackson
Photo credit: Chris Jackson

What will happen in the run-up to the Queen's death?

The current plans that have been drawn up envisage the Queen suffering from a short illness before she passes away, according to The Guardian.

This means that, like the Queen Mother who passed away on Easter Saturday in 2002, the Queen will have time to say 'goodbye' to those close to her. 

We can expect to receive a brief statement from Buckingham Palace informing us that the Queen will soon pass away. The night before her father, King George VI, died in 1952 the Palace told the country: 'The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close'. 

Photo credit: Lisa Sheridan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Lisa Sheridan - Getty Images

What will happen on the day the Queen dies?

The Queen's doctor, gastroenterologist Professor Huw Thomas, will take charge. He will join her shortly after she has passed away, and decide who sees her body and when the news is made public.

Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, will then notify the Prime Minister, according to The Guardian

Code words will be use to stop the news becoming public before the palace is ready. It is thought Sir Geidt will telephone the Prime Minister on a secure line and use the words 'London Bridge is down' to tell them of the Monarch's demise.

The news will then be relayed, via the Foreign Office on secure lines, to the 15 countries where the Queen is also head of state and the 36 Commonwealth nations. Ambassadors, diplomats, presidents and fellow heads of state will all be informed.

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

How will we know when the Queen dies?

While all of the above is taking place, the public will, of course, be completely unaware that the Queen has passed away.

News will come via a statement from the palace to global news agency the Press Association in the first instance, and then to all other media outlets. The BBC were once the first to receive news such as this, but this is no longer the case.

At the same time, a royal footman in black mourning clothes will pin a black-edged notice, informing the public of the Queen's death, to the gates of Buckingham Palace. The Palace website will also go black. Just like when the Duke of Edinburgh died last week.

Photo credit: YUI MOK - Getty Images
Photo credit: YUI MOK - Getty Images

TV and radio broadcasts will be interrupted with news flashes, and official statements will no doubt be made via Clarence House and Kensington Palace's social media to mirror that of the Royal Family account.

All BBC channels will broadcast the same BBC One news broadcast, with newsreaders wearing black suits and ties. 

BBC radio listeners will hear the words: 'This is the BBC from London', according to The Guardian. While those listening to commercial stations will hear 'inoffensive music' before the DJ hands over to the news, a blue light alerting them that a major event has happened.

News websites and newspapers will then publish pre-prepared obituaries. These are updated regularly to ensure they are ready to go when the news is announced.  

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

What will happen in the days following the Queen's death?

The Queen will lie in state at Westminster Hall until her funeral, around 12 days after she passes away. The UK will mark those days as a period of national mourning.

Westminster Hall will open 23 hours a day during that time, so members of the public can pay their respects by visiting her coffin.

The Queen will receive a full state funeral at Westminster Abbey, presided over by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. 

Dignitaries, leaders and heads of state will all attend the televised funeral, and the public will be invited to line the streets as her funeral cortege makes its way from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey. 

It's not clear where she will be buried but Sandringham, Balmoral or St George's Chapel (where the Duke of Edinburgh will be interred this weekend and her father was buried) have all been mentioned in planning documents.

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

Will Prince Charles immediately become King?

Prince Charles is first in line to the throne. He will become King immediately after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

According to The Guardian: 'Her eyes will be closed and Charles will be king. His siblings will kiss his hands'.

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