With the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, every detail of the next fortnight has been planned and rehearsed to the finest detail – and was even signed off by the monarch herself.
There have been regular meetings for decades between the many agencies involved, from central and local government departments to military and religious authorities and representatives of the other 14 countries where she was also head of state.
The Union Flag will be lowered on public buildings across the United Kingdom. The Royal Standard, which is the monarch’s personal flag, is never lowered because the monarch never dies.
While many of the specifics are yet to be released, here’s what we know right now.
King Charles III
Prince Charles automatically became King upon the death of his mother. He will be known as King Charles III.
He is now head of state not just in the UK but in 14 other Commonwealth realms including Australia and Canada. He will also become head of the 56-member Commonwealth, although that is not a hereditary position, after his succession to the role was agreed by Commonwealth leaders at a meeting in London in 2018.
He has become head of the British Armed Forces, the judiciary and the civil service, and he is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. He is the Fount of Honour, which means all honors, such as knighthoods, will now be given in his name.
In pictures: Britain's King Charles III
Gun salutes and title changes
One of the first formalities to take place will be a meeting of the Accession Council in an ancient ceremony at the 500-year-old St James’s Palace in London. It comes in two parts. In the first part, the sovereign’s death is formally announced, and the new sovereign is proclaimed. This is a closed meeting but attended by hundreds of dignitaries and members of the Privy Council, which is a panel of royal advisors.
The Garter King of Arms will read the Proclamation from the palace balcony and gun salutes will echo across the capital. There will be follow-up proclamations at the Royal Exchange in the financial district and in the capitals of the nations – Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. Flags will return to full staff whilst the proclamations are made.
The second part of the Accession Council is attended by the King and other senior royals. For the first time in history, we will get to see this centuries-old ritual because it will be broadcast live.
Prince William is now first in line to the throne and has inherited the title of Duke of Cornwall from his father and the income that comes from it. He’s now independently wealthy and his wife, Kate, has taken the title of Duchess of Cornwall, replacing Camilla who technically becomes Queen. The world will then watch as King Charles III takes a series of oaths and swears allegiance to the Church of Scotland.
Books of condolence will then open at St James’s Palace and at other venues. Following the Accession Council, he will return to Buckingham Palace for meetings with senior politicians and church leaders before retiring.
In the 24 hours after the Queen’s death is announced, there will be gun salutes across London – one round for every year of Elizabeth’s life – and a broadcast by the new King will be played out. A service will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral in the coming days, which won’t be attended by the royal family. It’s a moment for the public to remember their Queen. Expect local services to pop up across the country. The Queen was Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Over the coming days, the bells of Westminster Abbey, St Pauls and Windsor Castle will toll.
As monarch, Queen Elizabeth is automatically granted a publicly funded state funeral, and details will be released in the coming days. The Queen died at Balmoral Castle, her residence in Scotland, so over the coming days arrangements will be made for her to be transported back to England.
Elizabeth may have approved her own funeral plans, but they can only be signed off by the sitting monarch. King Charles III will perform that duty in a meeting with the Earl Marshal who overseas ceremonial events. We can assume he will give his go-ahead as he has already seen the plans and may have made adjustments as part of the planning process.
The last order of business on the day of death was expected to be a meeting of the Lord Chamberlain’s Committee, which is responsible for the running of the Royal Household, to make sure everything is in place for the next two weeks, including the state funeral in Westminster and interment in Windsor.
Past monarchs have lain in state in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, which houses the UK parliament. Their coffin resting on a raised platform in the middle of the hall and guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
British royal family members who hold high military rank, the consort of the sovereign, and the heir to the throne are normally granted ceremonial royal funerals instead.
Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband of more than 70 years and the longest-serving British consort in history, was given a royal ceremonial funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, west of London, in April 2021. Coronavirus pandemic restrictions meant the congregation was limited to 30 close family members and friends.
Philip was also intimately involved in planning his own funeral service, making sure the ceremony reflected his military affiliations and personal interests. Millions of people watched the televised funeral procession and service from home but crowds were discouraged from gathering at Windsor or other royal residences.
All other members of the royal family, their children and their spouses are usually granted a private royal ceremony.
CNN’s David Wilkinson, Susannah Cullinane, Peter Wilkinson and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this story.