What happens when a British monarch dies

The Queen's death will be one of the most devastating events in the past 70 years

Getty Images / BI

"Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith" - this is the Queen's official title. Unfortunately, she won't live forever either.

Since taking the throne in 1952, the monarch has seen 13 prime ministers serve Great Britain and survived 12 US presidents (number 13 is on the way). She is now 93. At some point - hopefully not for many years - the reign of Queen Elizabeth II will come to an end.

But what happens then?

For at least twelve days - between her passing, funeral and beyond - the UK will come to a standstill. It will cost the UK economy billions in lost revenues due to the chaos. The stock exchanges and banks will likely close on the day of the funeral. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation become official national holidays. According to estimates, the economic damage to the gross domestic product will be between 1.2 and 6 billion pounds (1.4 billion euros and 7 billion euros) - and organizational costs are not even taken into account.

Not only will the financial consequences be felt. It will be an event unlike anything the people of Great Britain have seen since the end of World War II. For example, the British news channel "BBC" will not broadcast any of its comedy shows, Prince Charles could change his name and the text of the national anthem will also be changed. Even the dissolution of the British Commonwealth could be a consequence of their demise.

The deaths of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother caused waves of public grief and hysteria. But the Queen will unleash a whole new level of grief because of her long tenure and her fundamental place at the top of British society.

The vast majority of Britons have simply never known life without the Queen.

It's going to be a strange, uncertain time.

Samantha Lee / Business Insider

The early hours

Much depends on the queen's demise. If it is expected (say through a long illness) then there will be detailed plans drawn up in advance. At Buckingham Palace, there are arrangements for the Queen's demise and subsequent sequence - they are known as the "Bridge."

But if it happens suddenly, unexpectedly, or even publicly - as was the case with Princess Diana's death in 1997 - then the news will get to the public immediately, in an unplanned, uncontrolled manner.

However it will happen, the staff at the palace and associated institutes will be sent home immediately. (According to "The Daily Beast" it will be announced at 8am if it happens at night.) The royal court has a staff hotline through which the message and instructions are passed on to employees. Much of the details from this story were provided to Business Insider by a former Buckingham Palace employee.

Assuming that the news was already awaited, it will first be broadcast on the major television networks. All "BBC" channels will pause their programs and show the "BBC1" feed for the announcement. The other independent channels will not be required to interrupt their regular broadcasts. But most of them almost certainly will.

So "BBC" first announced the death of the Queen Mother in 2002:

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At "BBC" the news anchors actively practice in the event of the monarch's passing away, so that they cannot be hit unsuspectingly in their shifts. The BBC's Peter Sissons has been heavily criticized for wearing a red tie to announce the death of the Queen Mother (seen in the video). Now “BBC” always has black ties and suits ready.

Moderators repeatedly rehearse the emergency by having to recite false messages that are never sent. In 2015, a BBC journalist tweeted that the Queen had died (even the same day she visited a hospital) because she didn't realize it was just a rehearsal. The report was then also picked up by foreign media.

"A journalist who worked for" BBCs "language services who did not get the email [informing staff about the exercise] saw an internal TV monitor showing the exercise," said the BBC Trust. " Several tweets were sent from her Twitter account. The first wrote that the Queen was being treated in a hospital, the second that the Queen had died. The tweets also included a link to BBC World's official Twitter feed. "

All comedy shows are canceled

The last death of a monarch was in 1952. "BBC" then canceled all comedy shows for a certain period of mourning. The Daily Mail reported that the BBC is planning the same scenario again today. All comedies are said to be canceled until after the funeral.

“CNN” has pre-recorded bundles of the Queen's life that are ready to air, we were told - and so does every other major news channel.

Some stores are very likely to close if the announcement falls during their opening hours. The protocols that government agencies follow will emanate from the Department of Culture, the Media and Sport (although they may also come from royalty). But the government's immediate response is difficult to predict, aside from official condolences, the former royal employee told us. The last monarch died in 1952; Procedures that seemed appropriate at the time are perhaps woefully out of date and out of date in the 21st century.

For example, mourners wore black bracelets to show their respect for George VI. to show, but would one today demonstrate one's grief in a similarly publicly visible manner? We will only find out when the time comes.

Flags will fly at half mast until eight in the morning the day after the funeral, according to instructions from the Greater London Lieutenancy, except on Proclamation Day (more on this shortly). Churches may also ring their bells - either on the day of death or the day after.

Whatever happens officially, the shock of the day the Queen dies will cripple the UK. The day of the funeral, about two weeks after death, is declared a public holiday - but the shaken grief will continue throughout.

There will be a brief resurrection of the British Empire

With the Queen's international prominence, it will very likely be top news around the world. The topic will also be a global trend in social media. After all, the UK has a huge foreign presence - not just in the embassies, but also in the former colonies and the Commonwealth, which still pledges allegiance to the Crown and also (more unofficially) in any country that speaks English.

The British Empire once covered a quarter of the earth's land mass and for a brief, unreal amount of time, it will feel like the Empire still exists. All of his former subordinates will look to the UK for the news.

A former ambassador we spoke to said what will happen overseas depends on the nature of the queen's demise. If expected, there will be ready-made plans and procedures. If it happens suddenly, the foreign posts will ask the Foreign Office for urgent help.

A couple of things will definitely happen abroad: Social activities will be canceled. The Union Jack - the British flag - will fly at half-mast until after the funeral. Officials will begin a period of mourning during which they will dress appropriately. Books of condolence are prepared for visitors so that they can leave their condolences there.

But the ambassador also emphasized that it is still largely uncertain what will really happen. More than 60 years have passed since the last monarch died. Society has changed tremendously during this time.

But let's not go that far: what will happen in the royal family?

An “Accession Council” is convened behind closed doors in the royal family

When most of the staff is gone and the public tourist attractions are closed, an "Accession Council" is held at St. James's Palace to officially announce the successor - Prince Charles, as long as nothing unforeseen happens. A privy councilor, Lords, the Mayor of the City of London and high-ranking officials from certain Commonwealth countries take part in the “Accession Council”.

The council is not required to "officially" proclaim Queen Elizabeth II's successor - at the moment of her demise, Charles becomes monarch. It never willnone Give rulers on the throne. That is also the reason why the "Royal Standard" (the official flag of the Queen) never flies at half mast (in contrast to the Union Jack).

Charles could change his name

One should also address the possibility of the Crown “skipping” Charles in favor of his son, Prince William - it has been discussed repeatedly in the media.

That would create a constitutional crisis and it definitely won't happen. Prince William himself has said it won't happen. Instead, Prince William becomes the new "Prince of Wales" - Charles ’current title.

After all, Charles has been preparing and waiting for this position all his life. And his mother's long tenure, of course, means he's not exactly young himself - he'll be at least 68 by the time he takes the throne, older than the UK retirement age.

"Impatient? I? How can you say that! Yes, of course I am, "he said in 2012." I'm running out of time soon. If I'm not careful, I'll have given up the spoon. "

In the council, the new monarch (presumably Charles) will swear allegiance to Parliament and the Church of England. He also becomes the new Supreme Governor of the Church (Catholics cannot ascend the throne).

The council will also select a “Proclamation of Accession” on Proclamation Day, shortly after death, in London, Edinburgh, Windsor, York and many other cities and villages across the country.

This was the last announcement when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne:

"Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George the Sixth of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:

WE, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these His late Majesty's Privy Council, with representatives of other Members of the Commonwealth, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of all Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to whom Her lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign , to bless the Royal Princess Elizabeth the Second with long and happy years to reign over us. "

However, Charles will not necessarily be called "King Charles". When they ascend the throne, royals can choose their “ruling” name from any of their first or middle names. Arthur Bousfield and Gary Toffoli write that when asked, Queen Elizabeth II chose "my own, of course - which one else?" But if Prince Charles wants to change his mind, as Charles Philip Arthus George he would also have the option of being "King Philip", "King Arthur" or "King George".

The Queen's corpse will be "laid out"

While these discussions continue, the Queen's coffin is being prepared to be laid out - that is, it is being displayed to the public for people to pay their respects.

Before that, the two Houses of Representatives will meet. MPs will have the opportunity to pledge a new oath of allegiance to the new monarch. All MPs must swear allegiance to the current monarch - although some Republican MPs will cross their fingers if they take the 500-year-old oath. MPs from both Houses will also offer condolences to the new ruler, a House of Lords spokesman told me. How this will happen is still unclear.

After that, both houses will be suspended until the official state funeral.

The Queen's body is laid out in Westminster Hall. There will be a brief ceremony marking the arrival of the coffin. After that, the public will be able to pay their final respects. The hall will always be open except for an hour, said the spokesman.

When the Queen Mother was laid out for three days, her grieving grandchildren took over from the official guard to watch over the coffin for a short time; this was called the "Vigil of the Princes" ("The Watch of the Princes"). Something similar happened for George V.

While it won't be a formal ceremony, there will likely be a similar act of remembrance for Queen Elizabeth II. More than 200,000 citizens paid their respects to the Queen Mother when she was laid out. The number of those who will mourn the Queen will very easily overshadow that number.

Here are shots of the Queen Mother's coffin laid out:

During this time there will be a huge, hysterical outpouring of public grief. It will not just be gloomy clothes and a minute's silence at a sports game - it will be a blow in the pit of the stomach of the national psyche.

When Princess Diana died, tens of thousands of the public went outside Buckingham Palace to lay flowers - some estimate that more than a million bouquets were laid. A memorial call raised more than £ 20 million (23 million euros). People queued for more than ten hours to sign the condolence books.

On the day of the funeral, "everything was closed, there was excessive television coverage, nobody went to work," recalls a witness to the BBC (although it was not a national holiday). There were “scenes of incredible sadness,” said another: “It was as if all these people had lost an amazingly close person, and their feelings were sincere. It worried me a lot - especially after the days of increasing hysteria on the streets of Kensington, people walking on the streets, blind with tears, etc. - it seemed like people were losing touch with reality. "

Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian writes that many Brits felt like they were "forced to close their shops or cancel sports events on the day of the funeral so they didn't have to feel the anger of the weeping hordes outside."

With the Queen's high rank and her close ties with the structure of the modern UK, it is very likely that public grief will be even greater if she dies.

A photo of the flowers for Princess Diana in 1997, which covered several meters in front of Buckingham Palace:

It will be a funeral with an extremely large number of stars

The body of Queen Elizabeth II will continue to be laid out until the day of her funeral, which will be a national holiday. The Daily Mail believes it will take place 12 days later.The coffin is brought from a carriage to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral.

It will probably be the best-attended funeral ever. Top politicians from all over the world will come. She is the oldest head of state in the world - almost 65 years on the throne.

The service is led by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and the oldest person in the Church of England (after the monarch). According to "The Daily Beast", the Queen was already actively involved in planning parts of her funeral and has a "sanguine" view of her mortality.

On the day of Princess Diana's funeral, "there were more than a million people on the route of the funeral procession," according to the BBC, with more than 30 million Britons turning on the television to watch. It was worldwide 2.5 billion viewers.With Queen Elizabeth II there are likely to be as many, if not more.

What about the Queen's final resting place?

When the funeral is over, it will be time for the funeral. Queen Elizabeth II may have already decided that - in which case it could be either Sandringham or Balmoral in Scotland. These two properties are unique in that they belong to the Queen personally, rather than the Crown.

Alternatively, she could be buried in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, the resting place of King George VI. - her father.

After a certain reasonable period of mourning - up to about a year - there will be a coronation. It's a very ceremonial affair, although technically the new monarch can do what he wants - after all, he's already king. Charles does not acquire his authority as ruler through the ceremony, so he may choose to avoid her if he wants to.

But if we assume that Charles does not want to break completely with tradition, then it will - again - be held at Westminster Abbey. And, again, it is carried out by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Here is an excerpt showing the ceremony and pageantry of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation:

The entire event will be televised (and streamed on the internet as well) and there will be parties all over the country. After Prince William and Catherine Middleton's royal wedding in 2011, thousands celebrated out on the streets. The same will happen at the coronation. As a national holiday, the royal wedding caused the British economy to lose between £ 1.2 billion and £ 6 billion. At the coronation it will be similar - on top of the direct cost to the taxpayer of holding the largest UK ceremony since the 1950s.

Decorations along Victoria Street in London for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II:

The little things…

The queen is buried, a new king on the throne ... is that it? Of course not.

There will be hundreds of changes across the country in the weeks and months that follow.

First a new currency is immediately printed and minted. The portraits of Charles will have been made during the preparation. However, you will not try to change the entire stock of money overnight - this will take several years, just as old notes and coins are slowly being taken out of circulation today.

Of course, the national anthem "God Save The Queen" would also change. This is Dame Julie Andrews as she "God Save The King" for King George VI. 1948 sings:

Even Trafalgar Square will change

Another unexpected change: the police will need new badges on their helmets. They currently show the queen's initials and the ruling number. Likewise, the military badges will also need an update.

Passports need a refresher. The British passport currently says: "Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State 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, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary. "

The stamps also need an update so that they show the head of the new king.

These small changes count more than you might think. After the current queen was crowned, her ruling number - II - caused disagreement in Scotland, which she also rules because there was never a Scottish Elizabeth I. When postboxes with the number were placed in Scotland, they were partially destroyed.

As signs of the Queen's rule slowly disappear, monuments are also erected in her honor. The fourth pedestal in Trafalgar Square is currently for temporary statues and artwork, but former London Mayor Ken Livingstone says it is his understanding that "the fourth pedestal is reserved for Queen Elizabeth II."

The Commonwealth may end

The Queen's passing may have far more profound and long-lasting consequences than just a few new stamps. It may mean the end of the Commonwealth as we know it.

The organization with 53 countries also includes 16 countries in which the British monarch is also the head of state, including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Barbados. It is a remnant of the British Empire, which today is only symbolic. Many of these countries were part of the Empire against their will, and almost all of them declared their independence a long time ago.

Without Queen Elizabeth II, many may choose to sever ties with the United Kingdom once and for all.

Australia, for example, held a referendum back in 1999 to vote on becoming a republic. It was a relatively close race in which the Republicans lost 45 percent to 55 percent. But much of the monarchy's support comes from personal affection for the queen herself. When she is gone, many Commonwealth countries may decide it is time to part. In Canada, for example, there is speculation that the Queen's death could be the trigger for the disconnection: "I think Charles might solve the problem," Steve Parish, Mayor of Ajax, Ontario told The Guardian. "

That also depends on the time of the queen's death. Many politicians in the Commonwealth of Nations - like former Prime Minister Tony Abbott - are staunch monarchists who are sure to stop any attempt at republicanism under their government. But if the Queen's demise comes at a time when politicians who are less enthusiastic about the monarchy are in power, then a resurgent republicanism might have a more open-minded audience.

A republican Britain?

Depending on how Charles rules, Republicanism could also gain traction in the UK. But there is no chance Britain will become a republic in the near future. Belief in monarchy is so ingrained in the psyche of the nation - in a poll, 66 percent said they believe the UK is better off as a monarchy, while only 17 percent voted for a republic.

On September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II broke the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria when she became the longest ruling British monarch of all time.

And in December 2016, apparently as a concession of her age, she announced that she would step down as the patroness of numerous organizations that she had supported, including charities and academic institutions.

While hopefully her death is still a long way off, it will definitely come - with it comes the end of an epic chapter in British history and the beginning of a new and strange time.

(Translated by Stefanie Kemmner)