Rob Price, Monica Humphries, Catherine Neilan, and Lloyd Lee
Queen Elizabeth II. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Most British people have never known life without the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She ascended to the throne in 1952 and reigned for 70 years, until her death on Thursday, September 8, 2022. She was 96.
For at least 12 days after her death, Britain will grind to a halt, potentially costing the UK economy billions in lost earnings.
But it’s not just the economy. King Charles III has ascended to the throne, and the words of the national anthem will be updated.
Buckingham Palace has long planned for the days following the Queen’s death. The plan for if her death occurred in Scotland was reportedly called “Operation Unicorn.”
In a statement sent to Insider, Buckingham Palace said the Queen “died peacefully at Balmoral” on Thursday afternoon.
Inside Buckingham Palace, arrangements for handling the Queen’s death and the subsequent succession were said to have been codenamed “London Bridge.” The Guardian reported that the plan for if she were to die at Balmoral was codenamed “Operation Unicorn.”
The detailed plan reportedly included a “call cascade” to alert Britain’s leaders of the queen’s death. The prime minister, the cabinet secretary, and the Privy Council Office were all to be informed, followed by an official public notification.
According to The Daily Beast, plans had long been in place to announce the Queen’s death at 8 a.m. if she had died overnight.
Most staff members at the palace will be sent home.
The royal court has a staff hotline for distributing news and instructions to employees in case of a major event.
Most staff members at the palace and associated institutions will be immediately sent home once the announcement has been made, a former staff member of the palace told Insider.
All parliamentary business will be postponed.
Sources told Insider that all parliamentary business, “including scheduled meetings of Select Committee and All-Part Parliamentary Groups,” will be postponed until after September 21, 2022.
Condolences will pour in from around the world.
Given Britain’s global presence through its embassies, former colonies, and the Commonwealth (which swears loyalty to the crown), the Queen’s death is a top news story around the world.
The immediate official government response in the UK — beyond the expected statements of condolences from leaders around the world — will be harder to predict, the former palace employee told Insider.
The last death of a monarch was in 1952; procedures that seemed apt then may be woefully antiquated in the 21st century. Mourners wore black armbands to show respect for King George VI, for example, but similar public displays of mourning may not be employed today.
Flags will fly at half-staff.
Flags were lowered to half-staff at Windsor Castle following Queen Elizabeth II’s death on Thursday. Across the Atlantic Ocean in the United States, flags were ordered to be flown at half-staff at the Capitol, the chief of staff for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted.
In the UK, flags will be flown at half-staff until 8 a.m. the day after the funeral, according to guidance from the Greater London Lieutenancy, with the exception of Proclamation Day (more on that shortly). Churches may also toll their bells to mark the day of the Queen’s death or the day after.
The day of the funeral will be declared a bank holiday.
Many businesses in the UK will close.
Following Princess Diana’s death in 1997, The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland wrote that many Britons felt “forced to close their shops or cancel sporting events on the day of the funeral, lest they feel the rage of the tear-stained hordes outside.”
Given the Queen’s stature and how intrinsically she was woven into the fabric of modern Britain, there is likely to be even greater public mourning for her death.
The protocols that government bodies will follow will emanate from the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (though they may also originate from the palace).
Britain’s overseas outposts will also be in mourning.
A former ambassador told Insider that overseas posts would look to the Foreign Office for urgent guidance.
Social functions will be canceled, and the Union Flag will be flown at half-staff until after the funeral, just like in the UK. Officials will enter a period of mourning and dress appropriately. Condolence books will be prepared for visitors to leave messages.
But the ambassador also stressed that there is a lot of uncertainty about what will actually happen, as it has been so long since the death of a British monarch.
Behind closed doors at the palace, an “Accession Council” will convene.
Once most staff members are gone and tourist attractions are closed, an Accession Council will be held at St. James’s Palace to formally declare the successor: Prince Charles.
The Accession Council will be attended by privy councillors, lords, the lord mayor of the city of London, and high commissioners of certain Commonwealth countries, among others.
This council is not required, however, to make Queen Elizabeth II’s successor “official,” as Charles will become the monarch from the moment of her death. There is never not a sovereign on the throne. This is also why the Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, unlike the Union Flag.
The new monarch will swear loyalty to Parliament at the council, and an “Access Proclamation” will be issued.
At the council, the new monarch will swear loyalty to Parliament and to the Church of England. They will also become the new supreme governor of the church. (Catholics cannot ascend to the throne.)
The council will also make a Proclamation of Accession to be read on Proclamation Day, soon after the death, in London, Edinburgh, Windsor, York, and other towns and villages throughout the country.
Politicians will swear allegiance to the new monarch.
Both houses of Parliament will have the opportunity to take a new oath of allegiance to the new monarch. All members must swear allegiance to the present monarch.
Members will also present addresses of condolences and loyalty to the new sovereign, a House of Lords representative told Insider, in a format that is yet to be determined.
A few senior members of the House of Commons will take an oath to the new King during the Queen’s tribute on Saturday, according to a Twitter announcement from the Parliament.
After this, both houses will be suspended until after the official state funeral.
Prince Charles is now King Charles III.
Charles didn’t necessarily have to become “King Charles.”
Upon ascending to the throne, royals may pick their regal name from any of their Christian or middle names.
Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli, the authors of “Fifty Years the Queen,” wrote that when Queen Elizabeth II was asked what she wanted her regnal name to be, she said, “My own, of course — what else?”
Charles felt similarly inclined. He is now King Charles III; his title was announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss.
“Today the crown passes, as it has done for more than 1,000 years, to our new monarch — our new head of state — His Majesty King Charles III,” Truss said on Thursday as she addressed the nation.
Prince William won’t become king … yet.
William will become the new Prince of Wales, Charles’ former role.
Charles has prepared for this job for his entire life. At 73, he is the oldest person in British history to become king.
“Impatient? Me? What a thing to suggest! Yes of course I am,” he said in 2012, according to The Telegraph. “I’ll run out of time soon. I shall have snuffed it if I’m not careful.”
Camilla, formerly the Duchess of Cornwall, is now the Queen Consort.
Camilla was expected to become princess consort instead of queen, but Queen Elizabeth II announced in February 2022 that she wanted the Duchess of Cornwall to be known as Queen Camilla.
“When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when the time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service,” the Queen wrote in her Platinum Jubilee message.
The Queen’s body will lie in state.
The Queen’s coffin will be prepared to lie in state, meaning it will be presented for public viewing so people can pay their respects.
The Queen’s body will lie in state in Westminster Hall. There will be a short ceremony to mark the coffin’s arrival, after which people will be able to file past and pay their respects. The hall will be open all but a single hour a day, the representative said.
There may be a new Vigil of the Princes.
When the Queen Mother lay in state after her death in 2002, her grandsons briefly relieved the official guard to stand guard over her coffin in what was called the Vigil of the Princes. Something similar happened after the death of King George V.
It’s likely that a similar act of remembrance would be accorded to Queen Elizabeth II.
More than 200,000 people paid their respects as the Queen Mother lay in state, and the scale of mourning for the Queen is likely to eclipse that.
There will be a public outpouring of grief.
When Diana died, tens of thousands of people laid flowers outside Buckingham Palace. As many as 1 million bouquets were estimated to have been left. People queued for 10 hours or more to sign memorial books.
Though the day of her funeral wasn’t a national holiday, one person described it to the BBC as “everything closed, saturation TV coverage, no one at work.”
There were “scenes of unbelievable grief,” another person said, adding: “It was as though all of these people had lost someone incredibly dear to them and their emotion was genuine.”
The funeral will be attended by leaders from around the globe.
Queen Elizabeth II’s body will lie in state until the day of the funeral, which will be a public holiday. There will be a 10-day mourning period starting Friday, sources told Insider.
The House of Commons will sit for tributes on Friday, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Saturday, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to a tweet from the Parliament.
After the 10-day mourning period, the coffin will then be transported to Westminster Abbey by gun carriage for a state funeral.
At 9 a.m. that day, Big Ben’s bell will ring once, then the bell’s hammer will be covered with a leather pad to dampen its tones for the rest of the day.
World leaders will come to pay their respects. The Queen was the most senior head of state in the world, having been on the throne for more than 70 years.
Billions of people around the world will watch the funeral.
On the day of Princess Diana’s funeral, “over a million people lined the route of the funeral cortege to the abbey,” according to the BBC, with 30 million British people tuning in to watch it. Worldwide, there were as many as 2.5 billion viewers.
The viewership of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral is likely to be equivalent, if not even more.
The service will be led by Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and the second-most senior figure in the Church of England (after the monarch).
The Queen will be buried at the King George VI memorial chapel at Windsor Castle.
After the funeral, Queen Elizabeth II will be buried in the King George VI memorial chapel in Windsor, according to The Telegraph.
The body of her late husband, Prince Philip, who died at age 99 on April 9, 2021, will be moved from the Royal Vault beneath St. George’s Chapel to join her.
A year later, it will be time for a coronation.
After a certain period of mourning — up to a year or so — there will be a coronation. It’s a highly ceremonial affair, and Charles’ authority as sovereign will not derive from the ceremony, so he could choose to forgo it altogether.
But assuming Charles does not wish to totally break with tradition, it will, again, be held at Westminster Abbey and officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Here’s some archive footage illustrating the pomp and ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
The coronation will cost Britain billions of pounds.
The entire event will be broadcast on television and streamed online, and there will be parties throughout the country, just like after the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
As a national holiday, that wedding lost the economy between £1.2 billion and £6 billion, and the coronation will be similar — in addition to the direct cost to the taxpayer of holding the largest British ceremonial event since the 1950s.
New currency will be printed and minted immediately.
British currency bears images of the monarch, and the portraits of Charles will already have been made in preparation.
The entire stock of currency won’t be replaced overnight, however, but will take several years, much like how older notes and coins are gradually removed from circulation today.
The British national anthem will change.
“God Save The Queen” will get some new lyrics — or some old ones, rather. It will become “God Save The King,” as it was before Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne.
Here’s a video of Julie Andrews singing the old national anthem to King George VI in 1948.
Police officers will need new uniforms, as will soldiers.
Police will need new insignia on their helmets, which currently display the Queen’s initials and regnal number.
Likewise, a great deal of military insignia will require updating.
Passports and stamps will need to be updated.
Passports, too, will need a refresh — the British passport currently “requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance.”
Stamps will also need updating to show the new king’s head.
Even mailboxes will need a change.
After the Queen was crowned, her regnal number, II, caused controversy in Scotland, which she also rules, as there was never a Scottish Elizabeth I. When postboxes bearing her cypher were erected in Scotland, some were attacked and vandalized.
The Queen will also be memorialized.
The fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square is currently dedicated to temporary statues and works of art, but former London Mayor Ken Livingstone said his understanding was that “the fourth plinth is being reserved for Queen Elizabeth II.”
Daniel Boan contributed to an earlier version of this story.