Her Majesty Elizabeth the 2nd, Queen of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuval… will die.
I know this is a sensitive topic, but at 91 years old, she’s both the longest reigning and longest monarch in British history.
- Elizabeth II: 1952 to present (81 years)
- Victoria: 1837 – 1901 (63 years)
- James VI/I: 1567 – 1625 (57 years)
- Henry III: 1216 – 1272 (56 years).
So unless you believe she’s immortal, her death is probably on the arisen. A certain level of preparation makes sense, as her passing will be one of the most influential deaths of this century, with an economic impact with billions of dollars. Her funeral will be perhaps the single most viewed event, with up to 40% of humans on earth watching.
65 years ago the death of King George VI was communicated over the phone to the high-level officials with the code phrase “Hyde Park Corner”.
Hyde Park Corner, CC
That way, those in charge of the transition of power, were informed of the king passing before the press could release the information to the public.
It’s believed that the death of the Queen will be communicated internally with the not-so-secret phrase “London Bridge is Down”, which will set off a protocol 65 years in the making. The Queen’s private secretary first contacts the Prime Minister of the UK will instruct their staff to communicate the news to the UK Foreign Office, which will then get in contact with the 52 members of the Commonwealth Nations, mostly former British colonies. Next is when the news gets the, well, news.
Every commercial radio station in the UK has what is called an owlet light. A blue light triggered by the central office in London to give the DJs a heads-up that the news of the royal family members’ death is on the way. They wouldn’t know for sure that it’s the Queen, but the protocol is still to switch to a pre-prepared playlist of somber music in anticipation of the announcement.
The BBC, as the UK’s public service broadcaster, gets its special heads-up from an alert system that was originally created during the cold war to warn of incoming missiles. Before the on-screen announcement, will switch to a black-tie that the station keeps on hand specifically for this purpose. BBC one will show her portrait and play the national anthem. The network will then begin the onus announcement. “This is BBC Television News. Buckingham Palace has just announced the death of the Queen.”
Union jacks will fly half-mast out of respect, but by law, the royal standard must fly full, because by law there is always a living monarch. TV has been prepared for decades. Days of pre-recorded coverage of the life and death of the Queen have already been prepared. Different experts on the royal family have already signed exclusive contracts with certain networks to appear following the death.
SkyTV and ITV regularly rehearse death coverage. Substituting the Queen’s name with Mrs. Robinson. Other networks have probably too. All BBC comedy shows will go off air during the 12 day mourning period. The death will be one of the greatest news events of the century. Airline pilots will announce the news to their passengers, London will nearly shut down, and an emergency meeting of the parliament will be called.
So, how much will the Queen’s death cost? Under British law, the funeral for a reigning monarch is paid for entirely by the state. While we haven’t seen a funeral for a reigning monarch for over 50 years, Princess Diana’s funeral, viewed by over 2.5 billion people worldwide, had a direct cost of about $10 million. And that’s just funeral expenses. The Bank of England has over 3.6 billion individual banknotes in circulation each of which displays the image of the queen. Each note costs about 5 cents to produce, so re-minting the entire currency stock would close to $200 million. But the UK isn’t the only country that would need to reprint their currency.
Worldwide there are 35 countries in total with the queen’s image on their money. A conservative estimate of the cost to re-mint all of those different currencies in all of those different countries would be about $1 billion. Plus both the date of the funeral and the date of the coronation of the new monarch would be declared national holidays in the UK, which each have an economic impact through lost productivity of $3 billion per national holiday.
The total cost of the Queen’s death would therefore likely hover around $8 billion – a hefty bill for kicking the bucket. But don’t worry! Unless the words “London Bridge is Down” are uttered and the BBC switches its tie and the blue lights illuminate, the world knows her Majesty the Queen is still alive and well.