Queen Elizabeth death: The protocols the royal family must now follow

Queen Elizabeth II has died peacefully at her home in Balmoral, Scotland, at the age of 96.

Her passing has been carefully planned for years and there are very specific royal protocols and plans that came into play before the public were even notified of her passing.

These plans are code-named Operation London Bridge and when members of the royal household are told "London Bridge is down", they swing into action.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a visit to officially open the new building of Thames Hospice in Maidenhead, Berkshire, on July 15, 2022.
Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-serving British monarch after becoming Queen at 25. Photo: Getty Images

Firstly Sir Edward Young, the Queen's private secretary informed the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the monarch's death before informing the 15 other countries, including Australia, where the Queen is head of state and the rest of the 36 Commonwealth nations.

So what happens next?

1. The public are notified

Official notification of the Queen's passing has been posted onto the gates of Buckingham Palace. The Press Association gave a statement to disseminate to all media outlets and radio and TV stations have pulled their regular programs and broken the news.

The official Royal announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The official Royal announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on the gates of Buckingham Palace. Source: Getty

Members of the royal household will wear black arm bands, and you can expect news readers and reporters to wear black in mourning.

When the prime minister makes a statement, there will be a gun salute, and the United Kingdom will hold a minute of silence.

2. Charles is king

As soon as Her Majesty died, Prince Charles becomes king.

It is believed he will be pronounced king the day after her death at 11am at St James Palace.

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, steps out of an Aston Martin sports car after driving himself and Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall into the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, central England, on July 28, 2022.
On the death of his mother, Charles will immediately become King. Photo: Getty Images

His coronation will take planning and could be months later.

It was over a year after Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne that her coronation was held.

3. Charles can choose his name

While he could have selected another name if he wished, Charles has chosen to be King Charles III.

The Queen's father Albert, affectionately known as Bertie, became King George VI in deference to his father King George V.

Times have changed however and Charles, now in his 70s, is well known around the Commonwealth as the heir apparent.

4. A city in mourning

London and cities around Great Britain and the Commonwealth have lowered flags to half-mast and bells will toll in churches around the Royal cities (those with official Royal residences) of London, Windsor, and Balmoral in Scotland.

Westminster Abbey’s main bells will be muffled and the famous tenor bell, which is rung in the event of royal deaths, will toll.

Great Tom, the bell in St Paul’s Cathedral will also solemnly ring.

Businesses, theatres and some sporting events will likely close or be cancelled.

Mourners pay their tribute 31 March 2002 outside the Queen Mother's official London residence, Clarence House, after her death 30 March at the age of 101. Mourners from all nationalities have come to pay their respects to the Queen Mother on this day.
Mourners from all nationalities came to pay their respects to the Queen Mother and there will be an even bigger response when Queen Elizabeth II passes away. Photo: HUGO PHILPOTT/AFP via Getty Images

People will begin to gather outside Buckingham Palace as the nation enters a ten-day period of mourning before the funeral.

"I think there will be a huge and very genuine outpouring of deep emotion," historian Andrew Roberts told The Guardian.

5. Before the funeral

Two days after her death, The Queen's body will be returned to Buckingham Palace for her family to spend time with her and say their goodbyes.

Five days after her passing, her body is moved by procession to Westminster Hall where she will lie in state for the public to pay their respects.

Mourners paying their last respects, file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother which lies in state at Westminster Hall in central London before her funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Mourners paying their last respects, file past the coffin of The Queen Mother which lies in state at Westminster Hall in central London before her funeral at Westminster Abbey which is also what will happen with Queen Elizabeth II but on a larger scale. Photo: Getty Images

6. Charles will tour the United Kingdom

Before his mother's funeral, Charles, as the new King, will visit leaders in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the British Isles, attend church services and go out to meet the general public.

7. The funeral

The Queen's funeral will be held on the 10th day after her death.

It will be a day of mourning and will most likely be declared a national holiday in the UK (and probably Australia as well) with most businesses such as banks and the stock exchange closing out of respect.

Members of the Royal Family follow the coffin of Queen Elizabeth , the Queen Mother on its way to Westminster Abbey.  After the service, the Queen Mother's coffin will be taken to St George's Chapel in Windsor, where she will be laid to rest next to her husband, King George VI.
The Queen Mother's funeral procession gives us an example of what The Queen's funeral procession will be like. Members of the Royal Family will follow the coffin on its way to Westminster Abbey as the public line the streets to say goodbye. Photo: Getty Images

The state funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey with heads of states from around the world in attendance.

There will be four official mourners from Australia – the Prime Minister, currently Anthony Albanese, his partner, as well as the governor-general and his partner.

There will also be a number of representatives from Australia which will probably include an Indigenous leader and representatives from various local charities, sporting and religious organisations close to the Queen's heart.

The funeral will be broadcast around the world.

8. After her funeral

The Queen's body will be transported from Westminster Abbey in London to Windsor Castle so that she can be laid in her final resting place in the 'royal vault' in the King George VI Memorial Chapel.

9. The line of succession will change

Prince William will gain his father's current title, The Prince of Wales, first in line to the throne while Catherine will become the Princess of Wales.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the
Prince William will become heir apparent and adopt his father's old title Prince of Wales making Catherine the Princess of Wales. Photo: Getty Images

10. There may be changes for Australia

While countries in the Commonwealth have been loyal to their longest-serving monarch, they may not be as open to King Charles and Queen Camilla.

Some may feel the time is right to change their head of state and become a republic or even leave the Commonwealth altogether.

The role of head of state is not actually hereditary so countries like Australia don't have to automatically choose Charles as their head of state.

There has been much discussion in recent years about whether the time is right for Australia to become a republic and losing The Queen may be the impetus needed for a successful referendum.

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