The Queen Died: Now What?
On Sept. 8, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland passed away at her summer home in Balmoral, Scotland. Having reigned for the past 70 years, few can remember a time before her enormous influence as the head of state of 15 countries. Undoubtedly, the coming weeks will feature historic memorials and ceremonies. The one question on everyone’s mind: What happens next?
The first thing to happen after Her Majesty’s death was the transfer of the crown. Prince Charles became King Charles III the instant his mother passed. As such, he was referred to as King even in announcements, via tweet, of the Queen's death. Soon, the Accession Council, an exclusive group of bigwigs, including peers of the realm, senior civil servants and political leaders, will gather to pledge their support for the new king. The following day, the king, along with the council, will make a formal declaration that includes an affirmation of the Independence of the Church of Scotland, along with a public declaration from the balcony above Friary Court in St James's Palace announcing his reign made by an official called the Garter King of Arms. He will end with “God save the King” — a proclamation that has not been used since 1952 — followed by gun salutes and official declarations in landmarks throughout the kingdom.
In perhaps a year from now, the coronation will be held, where the king will be crowned with the official Crown jewels and be anointed with the traditional holy oil. This will mark the completion of his ascension to the throne.
It is on this note that our speculation takes a historical note. At the previous coronation in 1953, television was still new to most households, and the royal family made the significant choice to televise the formerly exclusive event. While monarchs once maintained power through control of the nobility, now, in practice, they derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. This made it essential for the royal family to endear themselves to the world, hence the egalitarian televised broadcast. However, in order to preserve some element of mystique, the cameras were turned off for the most sacred part, the anointing with the holy oil.
But a lot has changed since 1952. For one thing, the family no longer has the special aura it once had. Charles in particular has drawn the public eye to his own fallibility by separating from his late wife Princess Diana and marrying Camilla, with whom he had previously been romantically involved, now the Queen Consort. The family has been rocked by controversies including associations with the notorious Jeffrey Epstein and the fallout of Prince Harry’s marriage to former actress Meghan Markle. Due to these and other factors, Charles and his family lack much of the respect held by the public for his beloved mother. Is there any mystique left to maintain?
In the year 2022, what is the royal family’s role? While the Queen could point to her connection to tradition, regal character and years of public service, will people believe Charles when he does the same? Somehow, I doubt the return of the proclamation “Long live the King” will come with its former degree of sincerity.
Photo Caption: Queen Elizabeth II
Photo Credit: Pixabay