Few alive anywhere in the world will have witnessed anything like the carefully orchestrated and detailed plan, including gun salutes, bells pealing across the land and millions gathered to pay tribute.
Codenamed London Bridge, the plan for the queen’s funeral has been years in the making and stage-manages an otherwise uncertain few weeks for the nation from the succession to a new king to a period of national mourning, the queen’s funeral and the eventual coronation of her eldest son, Charles, 73, according to advance briefings with Buckingham Palace officials.
Britain is now in a period of official national mourning that lasts until the queen’s funeral.
From the moment of Elizabeth’s death in Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Charles officially became the monarch of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, plus the head of state of Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada.
Elizabeth’s body will now be moved to Holyrood, her residence in Edinburgh, before a service attended by members of the royal family will be held at St. Giles Cathedral in the Scottish capital either tomorrow or Saturday.
The queen’s coffin will then be transported to London on an overnight train before it is taken to Buckingham Palace.
A guard of honor formed by the King’s Guard — soldiers in recognizable red coats and bearskin hats who stand guard outside royal residences — will present arms as the coffin arrives. This will be witnessed by Charles; his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall; Elizabeth’s oldest grandson, Prince William; and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
It’s a busy time for the new king, who will meet with Prime Minister Liz Truss, release a written statement and record a TV address to the nation, to be broadcast later the same day.
Such is the expected outpouring of grief, space is being allocated outside of Buckingham Palace, the British monarch’s administrative headquarters, for flowers and other tributes from the public, before they are then gathered and taken to a designated floral tribute area in adjacent Green Park. Thousands are expected to leave messages in books of condolences at Buckingham and St James’ palaces, also in London, and at Windsor Castle, the family home of Britain’s kings and queens for more than 1,000 years.
Westminster Abbey’s tenor bell and Great Tom, the state bell at St. Paul’s Cathedral, will peal over London from noon for one hour. Gun salutes are also planned to be fired at Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle and Hyde Park in London, one every 10 seconds for each year of Elizabeth’s life.
The Sebastopol bell, captured from Russian forces during the 19th-century Crimean War, will also sound at Windsor Castle once a minute for every year of her life.
Flags on official buildings will fly at half-staff, while flags in London’s Parliament Square and the Mall will be dressed in black crepe and tassels. A service of thanksgiving takes place at St. Paul’s Cathedral although the new king is not expected to be there.
The day after Elizabeth’s death, the new king will reveal the name under which he will rule — it may not be Charles III — at a meeting in the Throne Room at St. James’s Palace in London.
Members of the Privy Council, a committee of senior current and former politicians and judges who advise the monarch, will hear the new king say an oath and give a speech. For the first time, this meeting — a constitutional formality known as the Ascension Council — will be televised.
Also in attendance will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior clergyman in the Church of England, which the new king now heads.
The king’s proclamation will be met with a 41-gun salute at Hyde Park fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company.
In one of many flourishes of pageantry, a ceremonial tune, or fanfare, will sound and a Garter King of Arms, a heraldic position that has been in the royal household since 1484, proclaims Charles the new king from a balcony of St. James’s Palace.
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The royal band will then play the first verse of the national anthem — which now has a new title: “God Save the King.”
At this point, flags on public buildings can be raised to full-staff.
The new king then makes his way to London’s Royal Exchange, in ancient and modern London’s financial district, where he is proclaimed king by the Clarenceux King of Arms, another heraldic role dating to medieval times.
A royal officer commanding pikemen and musketeers will then order them to “advance their pikes,” which is five beats of tier drums, then “order their pikes,” which is three times.
Towns and cities across the kingdom will make their own proclamations, with fanfares at Cardiff Castle, Wales; Mercat Cross, a ceremonial monument on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland; and at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Preparations are by this point well underway for Elizabeth’s body to lie in state.
The new king and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, spend the third day visiting the seats of political power in England and Scotland.
In the morning, they will hear messages of condolence in Westminster Hall, between the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, before he makes a speech.
They then fly to Edinburgh for a ceremony at St. Giles’ Cathedral, before meeting the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, where he will be met with a 21-gun salute.
The king continues his whistle-stop tour of the country with a visit to Belfast, where he will visit Hillsborough Castle and St. Anne’s Cathedral.
The thousands, if not millions, of people expected to line up to personally pay their respects to Elizabeth when her body is taken to Westminster Hall will be invited to wait in line in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small green space next to the Houses of Parliament and alongside the River Thames.
Such is the importance of moving her body to this temporary resting place, there will now be a full rehearsal.
Elizabeth’s body will be taken from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster in a gun carriage procession, a symbolic and momentous moment. The coffin will be draped in the royal standard, on which the Imperial State Crown will be placed on a velvet cushion, followed by the new king. Princes William and Harry alongside her children and other members of the royal family will follow on foot.
Big Ben, the colossal bell in the Elizabeth Tower in the Houses of Parliament (the name of the tower and the bell are commonly confused), will toll at one-minute intervals for the duration of the procession along with gun salutes in Hyde Park.
The coffin will be taken to Westminster Hall, where after a short service, Elizabeth will lie in state under armed guard for the next five days. A continuous vigil now begins by the Yeoman of the Guard and other military personnel.
There are preparations for hundreds of thousands of people to file past and pay their respects, in a 24-hour operation interrupted only by a nightly 15-minute cleaning break.
The bodies of the Queen Mother; King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, and British wartime leader Winston Churchill all lay in state in this hall, which has played a key role in English public life since the 11th century.
On this day, world leaders begin to arrive to pay their respects at Westminster Hall. Meanwhile, the new king meets members of the royal family at Buckingham Palace.
The new king meets the prime minister at noon for his first official weekly audience, a constitutional custom in which the head of the political executive informs the head of state about parliamentary business, as dramatized in “The Crown” and many other TV and film scenes.
Not until 10 days after her death will Elizabeth be given her official send-off at Westminster Abbey, with members of her family, British establishment figures and heads of state from across the world in attendance.
During the morning, Westminster Abbey will fill up with British and foreign dignitaries, including all surviving former British prime ministers.
The final well-wishers will be admitted to Westminster Hall to pay their respects at 6.30 a.m. (1 a.m. ET), before the coffin makes its short journey with the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Scepter all on it.
At 11 a.m. (6 a.m.) exactly, the pallbearers will stop at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior and Big Ben will strike just once to make a national two-minute silence.
The Last Post, Reveille and the national anthem will end the hour-long funeral service, before a procession that could be as long as 1.5 miles then carries the coffin past Buckingham Palace to Wellington Arch and on to Elizabeth’s final resting place at Windsor.