Buckingham Palace announced this morning that Queen Elizabeth II is under medical supervision at Balmoral, her Scottish estate near in the Highlands. This news was soon followed by a statement from (new) Prime Minister Liz Truss and confirmation that all four of the Queen’s children were traveling to her bedside, or were already at Balmoral (in the case of The Princess Royal), as well as The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle interrupted an energy debate in the House of Commons to inform the MPs about the state of the Queen’s health. Since then, numerous MPs and the Archbishop of Canterbury have released statements offering thoughts and prayers.
Meanwhile, barriers have been erected outside Balmoral as crowds have begun to gather outside the castle. Buckingham Palace has canceled the Changing of the Guard.
To be perfectly candid, and as much as it pains me to say this, it sounds like the Queen is dying. The public has received numerous health updates on the Queen over the last two years, but what we’re seeing right now – numerous official communication and confirmation the family has traveled to her bedside – is an indication of how serious the situation is. I sincerely hope that this is a scare, but the situation would have to be extremely dire to kick into gear what we’re seeing.
I’m going to update this post as news unfolds. In the meantime, this post from 2017 may be of interest (the headline is a little aggressive given the tenor of today, but it provides background on the chain of events that were planned many, many years ago for what I very much pray this moment isn’t.)
2:56 PM GMT: BBC has suspended normally scheduled programming. Presenters have been instructed to change into black.
3:01 GMT: The Duchess of Cambridge has remained behind in Berkshire. I’m seeing some consternation that she hasn’t joined the rest of the family in Scotland. This is obviously about the children, but no, I don’t think her presence has anything to do with the logistics of the first day of school. If bad news comes, my sense is that William and Kate don’t want them to learn about their great-grandmother’s passing from anyone except one of them. Prince George, in particular, is old enough to have an understanding of the significance.
3:16 PM GMT: From a 2017 article from The Guardian, which provided insight into London Bridge:
‘When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background. […]
“All news organisations will scramble to get films on air and obituaries online. At the Guardian, the deputy editor has a list of prepared stories pinned to his wall. The Times is said to have 11 days of coverage ready to go. At Sky News and ITN, which for years rehearsed the death of the Queen substituting the name “Mrs Robinson”, calls will go out to royal experts who have already signed contracts to speak exclusively on those channels. “I am going to be sitting outside the doors of the Abbey on a hugely enlarged trestle table commentating to 300 million Americans about this,” one told me.’
3:20 PM GMT: Nicholas Witchell, a BBC correspondent, says that Buckingham Palace isn’t expecting to say anything more right now. “There is nothing imminent I am led to believe,” he says.
3:33 PM GMT: A flight carrying seven members of the Royal Household is landing in Aberdeen, Scotland from London.
4:00 PM GMT: The plane that landed in Aberdeen was carrying William, Andrew, and Edward, according to the BBC. There was some speculation that this flight was ferrying the coffin (per the London Bridge plan), however it is extremely unlikely family members would travel on that particular trip.
4:04 PM GMT: Per The Guardian article linked above:
“The most elaborate plans are for what happens if she passes away at Balmoral, where she spends three months of the year. This will trigger an initial wave of Scottish ritual. First, the Queen’s body will lie at rest in her smallest palace, at Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, where she is traditionally guarded by the Royal Company of Archers, who wear eagle feathers in their bonnets. Then the coffin will be carried up the Royal Mile to St Giles’s cathedral, for a service of reception, before being put on board the Royal Train at Waverley station for a sad progress down the east coast mainline. Crowds are expected at level crossings and on station platforms the length of the country – from Musselburgh and Thirsk in the north, to Peterborough and Hatfield in the south – to throw flowers on the passing train. (Another locomotive will follow behind, to clear debris from the tracks.) “It’s actually very complicated,” one transport official told me.”
4:18 PM GMT: The Countess of Wessex (Sophie) was also on the flight with William, Andrew, and Edward (her husband). Sophie is known to be extremely close to the Queen.
4:34 PM GMT: Kate was photographed a while ago doing the school run. Now that George, Charlotte, and Louis are presumably home, it’s possible she will join William and the rest of the British Royal Family in Scotland. If she does, I would be surprised if she brought the children, but it’s certainly possible. Their long-time nanny is obviously on hand, but so too is Kate’s family. In addition to her parents, both of her siblings and their spouses now all live in Berkshire. As I said above, it is still possible that she and William decided she should remain at home for the time being. We will see.
4:38 PM GMT: It has been clarified that only Harry is traveling to Scotland. Meghan has not joined him – at least at this time.
4:52 PM GMT: In addition to Balmoral, crowds have been congregating outside Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. It bears underscoring that if this is truly the end, the Queen’s death will be a near-unprecedented event in the UK, with global reverberations. The majority of the population doesn’t remember a time she wasn’t queen, and while the monarchy may not hold the same place in social consciousness it did 70 years ago, the Queen herself is respected and beloved by many. The public reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales took many by surprise. I believe this will be similarly – if not more so – intense, albeit of a slightly different tone.
5:00 PM GMT: With regards to Meghan’s presence at Balmoral, I think it’s for the best that she remain in England. However you feel about the drama, the fact of the matter is, only one side is regularly giving media interviews. The death of a beloved mother, grandmother, and matriarch is going to be devastating for her family and grief is a uniquely personal experience. Given the tenor of the public discourse and what many read as threatening language in The Cut, I can’t imagine the Windsors writ large would feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of Meghan. To be honest, I can’t imagine they would be in front of Harry at this point, but there is a much longer relationship there and he’s blood. It’s safe to say that Andrew is deeply problematic (to put it mildly) and his relationship with Charles isn’t good, but Andrew won’t go on a talk show in a couple weeks to disclose private moments in the interest of personal gain.
5:20 PM GMT: Andrew, William, Edward, and Sophie have arrived at Balmoral. It’s about an hour-long drive from the Aberdeen airport. William is driving.
5:52 PM GMT: From the BBC:
“There is little drama here at the gates of Balmoral. Little fuss. Instead a well-rehearsed plan has swung quietly into action. The police are directing traffic; and every few minutes another reporter or photographer crosses Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s bridge over the River Dee to join the throng watching and waiting at the entrance of the estate. For much of the afternoon the rain teemed down, leaving the purple heather sodden […] They have come to a place the Queen loves, perhaps more than anywhere else. Many people here in Royal Deeside return that affection. In modern times Balmoral Castle, built in the 1850s for Queen Victoria, has been a constant in the life of the royal family – an enduring symbol of the monarchy. Tonight thoughts and prayers here are with Victoria’s great, great, granddaughter, Elizabeth.”
6:12 PM GMT: It’s been raining throughout the day across England and Scotland, though that hasn’t stopped crowds from gathering at royal residences. Right now, there’s a double rainbow visible from London. Sometimes reality is more poetic than fiction ever could be.
6:34 PM GMT: Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth II died “peacefully” this afternoon at Balmoral Castle. Per the statement: “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
The Queen is dead. Long live The King.
Sometimes that continuity is as brutal as it is beautiful.