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What will happen when the Queen dies?

Arise King Charles... or Arthur?

What will happen when the Queen dies?
13 May 2017

The Queen.

She’s a good old stick really isn’t she?

Even if you don’t like the monarchy, there’s no denying that Liz has been as good a figurehead for the United Kingdom as you could realistically wish for: getting stuck in during World War II, always rising above party politics, and generally trying to convey a message of tolerance and respect.

But all good things must come to an end and with the Queen a mighty 91 years old – and having lived through an astonishing 18 Prime Ministers and 15 US Presidents – some are getting a little nervous that it may not be too long before she departs this mortal coil. Her husband Philip recently announced his retirement at the ripe old age of 95, having had his fill of unveiling plaques and mildly offending people all of all nations.

So there’s every chance that the Archbishop of Canterbury is busy practising his serious voice in the mirror right now. She might even be glad to get out before she has to meet Donald Trump. But what will it mean for the rest of us?

Well, this.

We’ll get TWO days off work

Admit it, this is what you click on here to find out, isn’t it?

Well, you’re in luck. We’ll get a day off, both on the day of the Queen’s funeral and also for the coronation of her successor, which will both be national holidays. There is likely to be a little while between the two days – there was a gap of sixteen months between Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne on 6 February 1952 and her crowning on 2 June the following year.

We’d like to think that – if Liz was indeed very ill over Christmas – that she decided to cling on in order to give us an extra day off when we really need it – sometime around February or March would be ideal if possible if you’re reading this ma’am, it gets terribly depressing around then.

There’ll be 12 days of mourning

The Queen’s death will trigger an official 12 day period of national mourning. Her body will be taken to Parliament where she will lie in state (that is, her coffin will be on display and guarded) in Westminster Hall like her mother did in 2002, with the hall open for 23 hours a day to enable people to walk past and pay their last respects. It is likely that, at some point, members of her grieving family will relieve the official guard to stand over the coffin. 

The 'Vigil of the Princes' at Westminster Hall in 2002

There’ll be no comedy on the BBC for 12 days

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but the taxpayer-funded BBC will suspend all comedy programming during this period of national mourning. Other channels may follow suit, although it’s hard to believe what Gold will show if it’s not able to screen Only Fools and Horses reruns.

The BBC is likely to play it extremely safe, given the criticism it received when Peter Sissons announced the death of the Queen Mother in 2002 wearing a (shock horror) dark red tie rather than a black one. The corporation now keeps black suits and ties at the ready at all times, and given the current presence of a government desperate to deny it funding, it is highly doubtful it will do anything to upset it – so expect a grave and sombre tone throughout, if only to avoid yet another bashing in the Daily Mail letters column.

At least we will get a break from Mrs Brown’s Boys, we suppose.

Charles will automatically become King

Despite constant press speculation, it is incredibly unlikely that Charles will step aside to allow William to become King. To do so, he would have to abdicate, since, at the moment the Queen passes away, he automatically becomes the monarch – so the throne is never technically vacant. However, he may well not become King Charles III – he is allowed to pick from any of his Christian or middle names – so he could opt to be King Philip I, King Arthur I (which would be a bold move) or George VII, after his grandfather.

While he immediately becomes King, he does still need the approval of the accession council to formally declare him the Monarch. Charles would swear loyalty to Parliament and the Church of England, before Parliament – who would be recalled - would, in turn, swear loyalty to him (although some republican MPs are known to cross their fingers when doing this – wait for another row involving Jeremy Corbyn).

Fun fact: while the Union Jack will be flown at half mast throughout the period of mourning, the Royal Standard will not be – since there is always a reigning monarch, it is never lowered.

Charles could cancel the second day off

Since he would already be King, Charles could choose not to have a coronation if he desired. However, we can’t quite believe he’d choose to enrage his new subjects quite so early in his reign.

There’ll be a new national anthem, new stamps and new money

The first change is fairly obvious – it’ll be back to God Save The King (wait for the Jeremy Corbyn row #2) – while the Royal Mail and the Royal Mint will immediately begin production of new postage stamps and coins featuring the image of Charles’ face. Which will probably be a real annoyance seeing as they’ll have just launched the new one pound coin. However, we’ll still be seeing Elizabeth II’s features for a while yet – the new currency will phased in, likely taking around three years before most of the tender has been swapped.

Fun fact: Charles will face left on the coins and stamps – the direction changes with each new monarchy – so let’s hope that’s his good side.

It’s going to cost a fortune

The London Stock Exchange will close for at least the day of the funeral, and possibly for longer. Banks, too, will close for an indefinite period. With the two national holidays also adding to lost productivity, not to mention the cost of staging the funeral and coronation ceremonies, it is estimated that the Queen’s passing will lead to an economic hit to GDP of between £1.2bn and £6bn. Still, two days off work right?

It could finally lead to the break up of the Commonwealth

Even countries that are decidedly pro-republican seem to think the Queen is a good egg, so despite virtually all former members of the British Empire declaring independence during her reign, many still have her as their head of State. But when she dies, they may decide the time is right to finally sever ties with the UK. For example, Australia voted in 1999 by 55% to 45% to retain the Queen; there would likely be a different result post-Elizabeth II, with many of the other 53 countries following suit.

Still, we’d win a few more medals at the Commonwealth games wouldn’t we?

There’ll be lots of other small changes

It’s not just the anthem, stamps and coins that will change. Police officers will need new insignia on their helmets (currently they sport the Queen’s initials and regnal number). Passports will need to be updated (perfect fodder for the Brexiters to demand a return of the old blue ones) to reflect the change from Queen to King. And rumours strongly suggest that the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square will be given over to remembering Elizabeth II. Which seems a shame considering some of the excellent art that has been displayed there in recent years. Perhaps they could stick a fifth one up?

'Really Good' by David Shrigley on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

The funeral will be an enormous affair

If there’s one thing the Brits do well – as shown by Wills and Kate’s wedding in 2011, it’s a good old massive event of pomp and circumstance. While this will be a rather sadder affair, it will be no less spectacular, with world leaders from across the globe expected to attend in their hundreds. The ceremony, which will take place at Westminster Abbey, is expected to attract a global audience of over 3 billion people (Princess Diana’s in 1997 saw 2.5 billion tuning in), so no pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to get his lines right then. We doubt Elton John will play at this one, but you never know.

Over a million people lined the route of Princess Diana’s funeral cortege – even more would be expected for the Queen. With the presence of such crowds, together with the A-list guests, it is likely to be one of the biggest security jobs ever conducted, with the armed forces drafted in to help.

After the ceremony, it is expected that Elizabeth will be interred at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where her mother and father are buried. However, she could choose to be buried at Balmoral or Sandringham.

Poor Kate will be in the spotlight even more

Following the Queen’s death, William will become the Prince of Wales, while Kate will take the title of Princess of Wales, once held, of course, by Diana. Which the tabloids will not be slow to pick up on, one would assume.

Charles’ wife Camilla, meanwhile, will legally become Queen, but is apparently going to adopt the title of Princess Consort instead, in the style of Prince Albert.

Morrissey will probably be happy

John Lydon too, we expect.

(Images: Rex/iStock)