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Queen Elizabeth II
Photograph: Karl Weller /

What will happen now that the Queen has died?

The death of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday triggered a process called Operation Unicorn

Ella Doyle
Written by
Ella Doyle
Ellie Muir

Queen Elizabeth II died yesterday at the age of 96. She spent 70 years on the throne, making her the longest-reigning sovereign and the only monarch most of us have ever known.

Earlier in the day, Queen was put under medical observation at her Balmoral residence after doctors had become worried for her health. Shortly afterwards, the Duke of Cambridge, Duke of York and Earl and Countess of Wessex travelled to Aberdeen, Scotland, via RAF plane.

At 6.30pm, Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had died via its official Twitter page. A spokesperson said: ‘The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.’

Now people are wondering, ‘What happens next?’ Because she died in Scotland, the process that is immediately triggered is called Operation Unicorn. This is an official series of plans that has been in place since 1960. Here’s everything we know about what will happen over the next ten days. 

What happens now that the Queen has died?

The day of the Queen’s death is referred to as D-Day. This means the prime minister, the cabinet secretary and some other senior ministers and officials were notified of her death straight away. In the coming days, the date of the Queen’s funeral will be announced. It was initially suggested that it would take place nine days after her death, but Monday September 19 has also been put forward as a date.

There will also be rehearsals taking place for the state funeral procession over the next week. There is expected to be a Scottish procession, where her body will be moved to Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and then carried up the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral for an initial funeral service. The Royal Train will carry the body back to London for the burial service. This will then trigger the rest of ‘Operation London Bridge’ – the series of plans that would have been triggered if she had died in London.

The coffin will be taken to the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. Five days after D-Day, the coffin will be moved to Westminster Hall and, after an official service, lie in state for three days. Then, ten days after the Queen’s death, a state funeral led by the Archbishop of Canterbury will be held at Westminster Abbey.

The Queen’s body is expected to be buried in a tomb at King George VI Memorial Chapel in Windsor Castle, alongside her late husband, Prince Philip. The day of the funeral will be declared a day of national mourning. A two-minute silence will take place across the UK and well-wishers are expected to gather in London and Windsor.

Will there be 12 days of mourning? 

Though the country won’t get 12 days off to properly mourn the monarch, the official mourning period after the Queen’s death lasts that long, with her funeral taking place on the ninth day. Each day after D-Day is known as ‘D+1’, ‘D+2’, and so on, until the funeral on the tenth day. This will be led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and her coffin will be taken to Westminster Abbey by gun carriage

When will the funeral be?

It was initially thought that the Queen’s funeral would take place nine days after her death – an official day of national mourning – but Monday September 19 has also been put forward as a date. An audience of 2,000 guests will attend the service at Westminster Abbey, followed by a public procession down the Mall. It will be shown on big screens around the city and country.

How long has the Queen been on the throne?

The Queen has been on the throne for more than 70 years. She is the second longest-reigning sovereign in history and the longest-reigning British monarch. 

Will Charles become King?

The Accession Council met at St James’s Palace yesterday to proclaim Prince Charles as the new sovereign. His official title has been confirmed as King Charles III. 

At some point, Charles will take on a tour of the UK, with the first duty being to visit the Scottish parliament, before going to Northern Ireland to receive a second motion of condolence at Hillsborough Castle. He is then expected to head to Wales and attend a service at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff.

How will the royal titles change?

The titles of other royals have changed too. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is now Queen Consort. She was initially going to be known as Princess Consort, but the Queen said in February this year that she would like her to be known as Queen Consort. 

Charles’s oldest son Prince William is now the heir to the throne and his own oldest son Prince George is second in line. Charles will choose whether or not he wants to make William Prince of Wales, but he will still hold the title of Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge. 

Princess Kate, William’s wife and the current Duchess of Cambridge, is now the Duchess of Cornwall too – the title previously held by Camilla. Kate will automatically inherit the title of the Princess of Wales if her husband William is granted the title of Prince of Wales. 

Read more: what will happen to coins, stamps and passports now the Queen has died?

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