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As all of you know, Queen Elizabeth II passed away.
Her death will usher in a series of changes, some immediate and others weeks or months from now.
As the transition of a British monarch is something that hasn’t happened in most of our lifetimes, it is worth it to take the time to understand exactly how the process works.
Learn more about the end of the reign of Elisabeth II and the beginning of the reign of Charles III on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.
About two years ago, I did an episode on Operation London Bridge. This was the advance plan for the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
About 200 years ago, the deaths of British Kings were often an unorganized, undignified affair. With the long reign of Queen Victoria, there was plenty of time to plan for the transition.
If you want, you can go back and listen to the episode I recorded on Operation London Bridge. I documented many of the things which would happen in the immediate aftermath of the Queen’s death, and today I actually went and checked to see how many of the parts of the plan were actually put into action.
Sure enough, everything from a BBC television presenter dressed in black announcing the news, a notice placed in front of Buckingham Palace, and the royal website was darkened.
Before I start talking about the transition, I’d like to talk about just how remarkable the reign of Elizabeth II was in the history of monarchies. Not just British or European monarchs, but world monarchs.
The total length of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was 70 years, 214 days.
This was almost seven full years longer than the reign of Queen Victoria, who had the previous longest reign.
A reign of this length was historic by global standards. If you look at the reigns of all monarchs throughout history who didn’t have a regency, meaning they didn’t ascend to the throne as a child, Elizabeth II had the longest reign in history.
Louis XIV of France ruled for 72 years and 110 days, but he became king at the age of 4.
Elizabeth became queen at the age of 25 when she was an adult.
The only other monarch with a similar reign was Rama IX, the King of Thailand for 70 years, 126 days. He passed away in 2016.
The reign of Elizabeth coincided with the dissolution of the British Empire. Many former colonies had Elizabeth as their head of state for at least a brief period after independence.
That means at one point or another, she was the head of state for 32 different independent countries, and at the time of her death, she was the queen of 14 different countries.
She had 15 different Prime Ministers serve under her, the first of which was Winston Churchill.
She also met every US President that served during her reign, starting with Harry Truman, save for one: Lyndon Johnson.
After the ceremony and services take place, the Queen will be laid to rest next to her husband, Prince Philip, at the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Upon the death of the monarch, the heir immediately becomes the new monarch. There is no moment when there is no monarch.
Charles had the distinction of having served as the heir apparent for the longest time in history. Has he was born before Elizabeth became queen, he has been the heir apparent for her entire, lengthy reign.
One of the big questions that was answered was what Charles would take as his regal name.
A monarch doesn’t have to take their given name as their regal name. Elizabeth did, but her father, Albert, didn’t. Instead, he went by one of his middle names and became King George VI.
After such a long time as the heir, many people thought that Charles would pick a different regal name just to change the brand. Also, the previous two kings named Charles weren’t necessarily the most successful monarchs.
The first got his head chopped in a revolution, and the second might have had as many as 20 illegitimate children.
In addition to becoming King, Charles also inherited a large amount of property that is part of the Crown. The Crown as an institution is distinct from the personal property of Charles, the person. Property of the Crown is always held by the monarch, whoever that might be. Personal property can be distributed as he should see fit.
Included with the Crown are all of the royal residences, including Windsor Castle and Buckingham Castle. This also includes all of the artwork which is held by the crown. Balmoral Castle was held by the Queen personally, and that will need to be resolved in her will.
He also will receive the £86.3 million annual Sovereign Grant as well as income from the Duchy of Lancaster.
In addition to becoming the King, Charles will have many other changes to his titles.
For starters, he was the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cornwall, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Duke of Rothesay. These titles have either been merged into the crown or have been given to his son Prince William. More on this in a bit.
All of the lesser titles Charles might have held, prince, duke, earl, baron, etc., are wiped away by becoming King.
Charles also becomes the head of all royal orders, including orders such as the Order of the Garder and the Order of Bath.
Charles also is granted the title Defender of the Faith, which makes him the titular head of the Church of England.
Another thing that changed immediately was the British national anthem. It changed from “God Save the Queen” to “God Save the King.” Almost everyone in the UK is probably to have to make an adjustment as no one has used those lyrics in 70 years.
Likewise, new passports will be issued in the name of the King instead of the Queen.
A whole bunch of these subtle name changes will have to be made. Her Majesty’s Theater in London will become His Majesty’s Theater.
The red postal boxes all over the UK have what is known as the Royal Cipher, which are the initials of the monarch. These will not be replaced, but any new ones which are built will have CR, for Charles Rex, instead of ER, which stood for Elizabeth Regina.
These post boxes can stick around for a very long time. There are still post boxes with VR on them, dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria.
A new monarch will also mean new stamps and currency with the new monarch’s image.
As of the moment Charles became king, there would be no more stamps, coins, or bank notes issued with the image of Queen Elizabeth.
While work is probably being done behind the scenes, I wouldn’t expect any new stamps or currency announcements for at least a month while the royal family is in official mourning, probably a few months.
While the biggest changes are obviously focused on the now King Charles, there are also implications for other people in the royal family as well.
The biggest of which will probably be his wife, Camilla.
Camilla will now become Queen Camilla. In all of the news reports today, I’ve heard people going out of their way to explicitly call her the Queen Consort, which is true.
The reason is that while there is only one type of king in the United Kingdom, there are three types of queens. The first is a queen monarch, which is what Queen Elizabeth was. If there is a queen monarch, there is no one above the queen.
However, if there is a king, then the wife of the king would be considered the Queen Consort. Queen Elizabeth’s mother, who was also named Elizabeth, was the wife of George VI was a queen.
When George VI died, the Queen Consort became the third type of queen, a queen dowager, who is just a former queen consort who is now a widow.
There was talk of Camilla not obtaining the title of queen when she first married Charles due to the high levels of popularity of Princess Diana, but that has since blown over.
The other person who has had changes in titles is the now heir apparent, Prince William.
Prince William is not, as of the time of recording this, the Prince of Wales. The title Prince of Wales does not automatically roll over to the heir when a new monarch ascends the throne.
It is almost certain that King Charles will name William the next Prince of Wales sometime in the next year, but probably not until the coronation ceremony is over, which is at least six months away.
Becoming Prince of Wales also requires an investiture ceremony at Caernarfon Castle in Wales. There was an 11-year gap between when Charles was declared the Prince of Wales and his investiture.
Given how old Charles is, it is probable that the appointment and the investiture ceremony will not require an 11-year wait.
Charles had several titles as next in line to the throne, which have automatically been given to William.
In addition to his title of the Duke of Cambridge, William is now also the Duke of Cornwall, which is the traditional English title for the heir, and the Duke of Rothesay, which is the traditional Scottish title.
There are several other minor titles that William has inherited as well. These include the Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
All of these titles would be extended by proxy to Dutchess Catherine as well as their children.
The other two people who have title changes are the children of Harry and Megan.
As great-grandchildren of the monarch, they were not entitled to use the title prince or princess.
As grandchildren of the monarch, they automatically gain the title of prince and princess as per a decree by King George V in 1917.
The children of William and Catherine already had the title of prince and princess because they were children of a prince in the line of succession.
It is possible that more titles could be bestowed on family members later. There has been talk of Charles’s brother Edward being given the title Duke of Edinburgh, which was held by Prince Philip and then given to Charles after his death.
There is one final thing that could possibly change, and it has been discussed by Charles in the past. Changing the name of the Royal House.
The name of the Royal House is Windsor. This was changed in 1917 by King George V, who took the name of Windsor Castle because it was much more British sounding than the previous name, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
The name Saxe-Coburg and Gotha came from Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. As children normally take the name of their father, the descendants of Victoria took the name of the house from Albert, like you would a family surname.
In 1917, when the name of the royal family’s house was changed, King George also changed something else. He gave the members of the royal family an actual surname: Windsor.
Prior to this, British Monarchs didn’t have an actual last name. So even though it is almost never used, it does exist.
When Elizabeth ascended to the throne, this became an issue. Her husband, Prince Philip, didn’t have a surname when he became a British Citizen. He adopted the name Mountbatten, which was the title of his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Philip wanted his children to take his name, so they compromised and agreed that their children would all use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
However, the agreement also said that the name of the royal house would remain the House of Windsor.
King Charles is not bound by the decisions of the previous monarch as to the name of the royal house. He had a great deal of respect for his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, as well as his father, and there has been talk that he would change the name of the royal house to Mountbatten-Windsor.
If this were to happen, it might likely not happen for quite a while. It would not be high on the priority list.
There will probably be even more changes over time than the ones I’ve listed. The monarch has pretty much-unlimited power when it comes to things like titles and honors in the UK and how the royal family operates.
After a single monarch ruling for so long, changes should be expected, and any change will probably seem jarring given the extremely long reign of Queen Elizabeth II.