King Charles, April 2023

King Charles, April 2023 Getty

What can you expect from the royal protocols that need to be followed when His Royal Majesty King Charles III passes away?

Following Queen Elizabeth II's death and state funeral on September 8 - 19, 2022, and an official Royal Coronation on May 6, 2023, her son Charles III became the King of England. 

Immediately afterward, as is standard within the Royal institution, plans were put into place in preparation for the next moment a new England monarch would need to be crowned.

According to former Royal Protection Officer Simon Morgan, "Even the King said in his acceptance that he will take this role for as long as life allows him to. He is 73 years of age, it's got to be in the back of your mind, and from the police, we've got to start planning again for the future."

Operation Menai Bridge

This is the designated code word that will be used when the time will come that King Charles dies. Named after a suspension bridge in Wales, eagle-eyed viewers of the TV show "The Crown" might have noticed the name being used during an episode about Charles' near-miss with an avalanche. The scene involves the Queen's secretary briefing her and commenting, "We have contingency plans in place for all members of the royal family, Menai Bridge is no exception. It's the code name for the death of the Prince of Wales."

Queen Elizabeth's death was known as Operation London Bridge, while the death of Elizabeth's father King George VI was known as Hyde Park Corner and that of the Queen Mother was Tay Bridge.

Similar to the death of his mother, King Charles' family will be the first to be informed of his passing followed by the Prime Minister before the information is released to the 56 Commonwealth nations. This is done by the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre which is housed at an unknown location in London. 

The media and public

The first time the public will become aware of his death is when a notice is placed on the gates of Buckingham Palace and flags will also be lowered to half-mast. All staff will wear a black armband on the left arm, which must measure three-and-a-quarter inches wide.

A statement will then be released to the Press Association and other news outlets. At this stage main TV channels will pull regular programmes and newsreaders will wear black suits and ties. DJs on-air will see a blue light flash, which means to cut to news ASAP and blanket coverage will begin. 

During the announcement of Queen Elizabeth's death, many people witnessed this protocol being carried out in real time. Watch here the moment the BBC announced live on air that Her Majesty had died:

Prince William will become King 

As soon as King Charles dies, his eldest son Prince William will become the King of England. He will likely give an address to the nation that same day and will swiftly start meeting with government officials and visit Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. 

As we saw with the passing of Queen Elizabeth, Royal titles will also have to be changed. Kate Middleton will become Queen and move away from her title of Princess of Wales while Camilla will become Queen Dowager, the official term for the widow of a king.

Meanwhile, King Charles' body will be moved from Buckingham Palace’s throne room to Westminster Hall, where he will "lie in state".

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla pose greet the public from Buckingham Palace's balcony following their Coronation

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla pose greet the public from Buckingham Palace's balcony following their Coronation

Before the funeral 

There will be an expected 10 days between the King's death and his funeral. He will lie in state for a number of days so the public can pay their respects. Around 250,000 people visited Queen Elizabeth's body in 2022. And then, on the 10th day, the King's body will be moved to Westminister Abbey for a state funeral. 

On the day of the funeral 

The funeral will be attended by state officials from all over the world and will be coordinated by the armed forces and Government.

The country will be given a national day of mourning, (including the stock market) and Big Ben will chime at 9 am on the day. The crown jewels will be cleaned that morning. Before the coffin arrives at Westminister Abbey at 11 am, the country will fall silent. 

King Charles will then be laid to rest in the “royal vault” in King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle.