Now that the Queen is dead, the throne has passed immediately and without ceremony to the heir, Charles, the former Prince of Wales. At 73, he is the oldest person to accede to the throne in British history. The newly proclaimed monarch will be known as King Charles III. For the first time since 1952, the national anthem is played with the words will be “God Save the King”.
It is the start of a tumultuous 10 days for the UK that will see a queen buried, a nation mourns its longest-reigning monarch, and a new king proclaimed.
Flags will fly at half-mast as the country embarks on a period of national mourning. Normal politics will be suspended as tributes flow in from around the world. In London, the Queen’s coffin will be placed in Westminster Hall prior to her state funeral, which will be marked by a public holiday.
The next two weeks will be a jolt for a country accustomed to being ruled by the same monarch for more than 70 years — longer than 85% of the population have been alive. Charles will now have to steer the near-immutable institution of monarchy in a country that has altered beyond recognition since his mother’s accession. His kingdom faces potential breakup as Scotland presses for independence and an uncertain position in the world after leaving the European Union.
King Charles speaks of ‘moment of the greatest sadness’ in tribute to ‘cherished’ Mother Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth II has had nearly 15 prime ministers, seen the UK join and leave the European Union, and faced many personal trials, such as the earthquake of her daughter-in-law Diana’s death in 1997, or more recently the criticism of the royal family by her grandson Harry and his partner Meghan Markle. In April 2021, she had to deal with the death of her husband, Prince Philip, to whom she had been married for 73 years.
Despite the controversies, the Queen enjoyed a popularity in the UK that was unwavering. Known the world over for her famous colourful matching outfits, never going without her hat and bag, she also knew how to have fun in her own way – and despite protocol – with little jokes slipped in during her official visits.
In mid-October 2021, after appearing with a cane, Elizabeth II was put on enforced rest for a few days by her doctors, who also advised her to stop her daily glass of Dry Martini, which she used to enjoy before dinner. She even spent a night in hospital from Wednesday 20 to Thursday 21 October for tests, but Buckingham was reassuring. Named “senior citizen of the year” by a magazine a few days earlier, the Queen politely declined the award, assuring that “you are as old as you feel”.
In recent months, her health had deteriorated again. Although she attended her jubilee, she limited her public appearances to preserve herself. She had settled in her residence at Balmoral, far from the hustle and bustle of Buckingham Palace in London. On Thursday 8 September, the palace announced that Elizabeth II’s doctors were “concerned” about her health.