Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch Britain has ever seen. At 95 years old, she has worn the crown for 70 years, surpassing Queen Victoria by seven years. Her Majesty the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952, after her father King George VI passed away, and since then has made serving the British nation her top priority.
During her magnificent reign, she served as monarch of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and numerous other realms and territories, as well as head of the Commonwealth, the group of 53 sovereign nations that includes many former British territories. She is credited with modernising many aspects of the monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Phillip on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. They later had four children. Her family has also expanded over the years: Queen Elizabeth now has eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
On April 9, 2021 Buckingham Palace announced the news that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died aged 99. He was the longest-serving consort in British history and they were married for an extraordinary 73 years. His devastating passing also poised the question as to how long the Queen would be able to fulfil her duties for. She has recently pulled out of a number of public functions, most recently the State Opening of Parliament.
After she was diagnosed with Covid earlier this year, many were worried about her health, asking: 'How is the Queen today?'
Well, that's what they were Googling at least – as well as 'Has the Queen lost weight?', 'How old is the Queen?' and 'What happens when the Queen dies?'. Today, there are even searches for 'Has the Queen passed away?'.
Essentially, everyone is concerned that the Queen may be seriously ill. Of course, not all the Google searches are quite so... empathetic. Among questions about the Queen's current health, the top breakout search term on Google is 'Do we get a day off if the Queen dies?' followed by '12 days of mourning off work' and '12 days of mourning school'.
So, whether you're worried about her health or wondering what the national mourning protocols are when the Queen dies, here's everything you need to know...
What is the matter with the Queen, is she seriously ill?
The Queen's health has been a cause for concern for a while now. This stems from her positive Covid test in February and spells of illness causing her to pull back from public events over the last several months, including the Queen’s speech at Parliament. The monarch has also faced ongoing 'episodic mobility problems', stretching back to last autumn, and now uses a walking stick. Most recently during her Platinum Jubilee ( 2nd - 5th June) she pulled out of some of her celebrations due to discomfort.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said the Queen 'greatly enjoyed' her birthday parade and flypast in London but 'did experience some discomfort'. The statement continues, 'Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty, with great reluctance, has concluded that she will not attend.'
Generally, palace aides have remained optimistic about the Queen's health. Despite these reports and past illnesses causing her to pull back from public roles slightly, the Queen is in relatively good health considering her age of 96 years old. In the past palace aids explained that she was experiencing 'mild cold-like symptoms' due to Covid, and that the Queen would continue 'light duties' at Windsor but 'will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines.'
What are ‘episodic mobility issues’
As to what ‘episodic mobility issues’ actually are, this usually refers to infirmity or unsteadiness when walking, perhaps accompanied by weakness or joint pain in key areas. The Queen has been using a cane for the majority of her public apperances - which should be expected for someone of 96 years old.
What happens when the Queen dies?
While the Palace has given no indication of serious illness, many are still wondering what happens when the Queen passes away. The Queen Mother passed away in 2002 – the same year as Princess Margaret – at the impressive age of 102. But have the protocols for when a monarch dies changed much in the last 20 years?
Not according to The Daily Mail, which states that the chain of events that will follow the Queen’s death have been rehearsed for decades. Civil servants will use the code ‘London Bridge Is Down’ to signal that she has passed away.
Queen Elizabeth’s father George VI, who took the throne when his brother abdicated, was the last British monarch to die, 65 years ago. The news of his death was communicated by the code ‘Hyde Park Corner’.
What is Operation London Bridge?
According to The Guardian, the secret procedure that will trigger the chain of events when the Queen dies is known as ‘Operation London Bridge,’ and details how the news will be distributed to the press and the duties her family will undertake.
It is stated that the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, will be the first official to hear the news, and it will be he that then informs the Prime Minister.
The news will then be passed to 36 other countries in the Commonwealth and then other world leaders, before the general public is told. Newsreaders will most likely interrupt television programmes and will be wearing black.
According to The Daily Mail, ‘a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.’
From then Britain will enter a period of mourning that will last for 10 days. Prince Charles will then become King at 11am the following day, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s titles will be changed to Prince and Princess of Wales.
What happens to media coverage ?
The licence fee-funded BBC will suspend all programming and screen BBC One coverage of the event. If Her Majesty dies during the night, her death would reportedly not be announced until 8am, after which her portrait will be displayed on the screen accompanied by the national anthem - as happened following the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
Where will the Queen's funeral be?
The Queen’s funeral will take place 12 days after her death, and will be lead by the Archbishop of Canterbury and her coffin will be taken to Westminster Abbey by gun carriage.
It is so far unknown whether she will be buried with her father King George VI at the St George’s Chapel in Windsor or whether she will be laid to rest in Balmoral or Sandringham.
How many days do we get off when the Queen dies?
While the UK will partake in a 10-day mourning period, only the day of the Queen's funeral will be considered a national holiday. So, for anyone Googling '12 day mourning period off work', you won't get a full fortnight to mourn the Queen. Instead, on the day of the funeral, the London Stock Exchange will close as will most UK banks. The day will be considered a bank holiday, as well as the subsequent coronation of the next monarch.
More optimistically, though, for the Queen's 70th Jubilee celebration the late May bank holiday has been rejigged and instead of just having the Monday off, we'll have both Thursday and Friday the 2nd and 3rd of June as bank holidays to celebrate the milestone.
Do children get 12 days of mourning at schools?
Just like us grown ups, children and school goers will observe the official national day of mourning for the Queen's death, which will be the day of her funeral.
Line of Succession
As we all know, Prince Charles is first in line to the throne so, will automatically become King. However, the Accession Council would need to take place at St James’s Palace to formally declare Charles the King.
Prince Charles would next have to to swear loyalty to Parliament and the Church of England in front of the council and them to him. Furthermore, the words to the National Anthem would be changed and new postage stamps and currency created to reflect Prince Charles’ ascension to the throne.
Following this, the Duke of Cambridge's title's will automatically change to Prince of Wales. This title is historically held by those first in line to the throne.
Click through for an ode to the Queen's incredible style...
London-based footwear brand Anello and Davide is where the Queen purchases some of her favourite shoes. And it was recently revealed that Her Majesty has hired someone to break in her block heels... If that's not goals, then we don't know what is.