Few alive will have witnessed anything like the carefully orchestrated and detailed plan, including gun salutes, bells pealing across the land and millions gathering to pay tribute. Britain is in a period of official national mourning that lasts until the queen’s funeral, which takes place Sept. 19.
Code-named London Bridge, the plan, which has been years in the making, stage-manages an otherwise uncertain few weeks for the nation, from the succession to a new king to a period of national mourning, the queen’s funeral and the eventual coronation of her eldest son, King Charles III, 73, according to advance briefings with Buckingham Palace officials.
These plans may change in the days ahead.
Friday, Sept. 9
The queen's coffin was moved to the ballroom at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, covered in the royal standard of Scotland and a wreath of flowers that is changed daily. The many staff members at Balmoral and its vast estate were among the first to pay their respects.
From the moment of Elizabeth’s death in Balmoral Castle, Charles officially became the monarch of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as the head of state of Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada.
It's a busy time for the new king, who spoke with Prime Minister Liz Truss, released a written statement and recorded a TV address to the nation that was broadcast later Friday.
Such was the expected outpouring of grief that space was allocated outside Buckingham Palace, the British monarch’s administrative headquarters, and at the queen's other residences, for flowers and other tributes from the public. The items then are gathered and taken to a designated floral tribute area in the adjacent Green Park. Thousands of people have left messages in books of condolences at Buckingham and St. James’s palaces, also in London, and at Windsor Castle, the family home of Britain’s kings and queens for 1,000 years.
Westminster Abbey’s tenor bell and Great Tom, the state bell at St. Paul’s Cathedral, pealed over London from noon for one hour. A royal gun salute iwas fired at Hyde Park in London and the Tower of London at 1 p.m. (8 a.m. ET), one every 10 seconds for each year of Elizabeth’s life.
The Sebastopol bell, captured from Russian forces during the 19th century Crimean War, also sounded at Windsor Castle once a minute for every year of her life.
Flags on official buildings fly at half-staff until 8 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) on the final day of national mourning, while flags in London’s Parliament Square and the Mall are dressed in black crepe and tassels. A service of thanksgiving takes place at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Saturday, Sept. 10
The coffin was carried from the Balmoral ballroom by a party of bearers consisting of the Balmoral estate head keep and six other keepers.
In London, members of the Privy Council, a committee of senior current and former politicians and judges who advise the monarch, heard the new king say an oath and give a speech. For the first time, the meeting — a constitutional formality known as the Accession Council — was televised.
Also in attendance was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior clergyman in the Church of England, which the new king now heads.
The king’s proclamation was met with a 41-gun salute at Hyde Park fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company.
In one of many flourishes of pageantry, a ceremonial tune, or fanfare, was sounded, and a Garter King of Arms, a heraldic position that has been in the royal household since 1484, proclaimed Charles the new king from a balcony of St. James’s Palace in London.
The royal band played the first verse of the national anthem — which now has a new title: “God Save the King.”
At that point, flags on public buildings were temporarily raised to full-staff.
Sunday, Sept. 11
The queen’s body was moved to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, in the country’s capital, Edinburgh, where it was met by a military guard of honor, a ceremonial gesture in which a row of soldiers stands to attention.
Cities across the U.K. made their own proclamations to the new king, with fanfares at Cardiff Castle, Wales; Mercat Cross, a ceremonial monument on in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile — the traditional processional route for monarchs for the last 500 years; and Hillsborough Castles in Belfast.
Monday, Sept. 12
King Charles III and the Queen Consort went to Britain’s Houses of Parliament in London where they heard messages of condolence from Prime Minister Liz Truss and lawmakers from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the lower and upper houses. The event took place in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the parliamentary estate, which has been used in important state events in some form since the 11th century. It was here that Charles I was put on trial and sentenced to death in 1649.
Charles told the event that his mother “Set an example of selfless duty,” which he was “resolved faithfully to follow.”
After traveling back to Edinburgh, the king and the queen consort joined other members of the royal family, including Elizabeth’s other children, walking behind the queen’s coffin as it made its procession in Edinburgh from Holyrood to St. Giles’ Cathedral, with the guns of Edinburgh Castle firing every minute throughout. Thousands of people lined the Royal Mile, which for 500 years has served as a traditional royal processional route.
Tuesday, Sept. 13
The queen’s coffin left St. Giles’ Cathedral by car to travel to Edinburgh Airport before it was flown to London, accompanied by Princess Anne, the queen’s daughter. A state hearse then took the coffin to Buckingham Palace.
The king and the queen consort, as well as the prince and princess of Wales, received the coffin at the palace, where it was watched over by a rota of the king's chaplains.
Many thousands of people lined up to pay their respects to Elizabeth when her body was taken to Westminster Hall. They waited in line in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small green space next to the Houses of Parliament alongside the River Thames. Such is the importance of moving her body to this temporary resting place that a full rehearsal took place beforehand.
Before the queen's coffin was moved to Westminster, the king visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, with the queen consort. He met dignitaries and attended a prayer service at St. Anne’s Cathedral, before returning to London.
Wednesday , Sept. 14
Elizabeth’s body was taken from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster around 2 p.m. (9 a.m. ET) in a gun carriage procession, a symbolic and momentous moment. The coffin was draped in the royal standard, on which the Imperial State Crown rested on a velvet cushion, followed by the new king. Princes William and Harry, alongside Elizabeth’s other children and members of the royal family, followed on foot. Camilla, the Queen Consort; the Princess of Wales; the Duchess of Sussex and the Countess of Wessex followed the procession in a car.
Big Ben, the colossal bell in the Elizabeth Tower in the Houses of Parliament (the name of the tower and the bell are commonly confused), tolled at one-minute intervals for the duration of the procession, and gun salutes were fired from Hyde Park.
The coffin was then taken to Westminster Hall, where, after a short service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury with the king in attendance, Elizabeth lies in state under armed guard until Monday. A continuous vigil is now underway by the Yeoman of the Guard and other military personnel.
From 5 p.m. (noon ET), people will begin to file past and pay their respects in a 24-hour operation interrupted only by a nightly 15-minute cleaning break. This ends at 6.30 a.m. (1.30 a.m. ET) on the day of the funeral.
“You will need to stand for many hours, possibly overnight, with very little opportunity to sit down, as the queue will keep moving. Please consider this before you decide to attend or bring children with you,” the British government said in a statement.
The Queen Mother; King George VI, Elizabeth’s father; and the British wartime leader Winston Churchill all lay in state in this hall. The last British state funeral was for Churchill in 1965.
Thursday , Sept. 15
On the first of four full days of the former monarch lying in state, world leaders arrive to pay their respects at Westminster Hall. Meanwhile, the new king meets members of the royal family at Buckingham Palace.
Prince William and Princess Catherine visited the royal home in Sandringham, where they viewed the floral tributes laid outside and spoke with members of the public.
Friday, Sept. 16
Charles attended a service at St. Llandaff’s Cathedral in Cardiff and a reception at Cardiff Castle. Charles, who was for decades the Prince of Wales, has now passed this title to his eldest son, William. Back in London, Charles and the queen’s other children are expected to join a vigil alongside her coffin at Westminster Hall, possibly joined by her grandchildren.
Saturday, Sept. 17
The third full day of the queen lying in state. The king meets foreign dignitaries at Buckingham Palace, before members of the royal family and foreign heads of state sign a book of condolences and give short tribute speeches at Lancaster House.
Sunday, Sept. 18
The new king is expected to hold an audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss, in a long-standing traditional representation of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. Parliament holds all political power, but the monarch plays an important ceremonial and advisory role.
The king is also expected to view flowers and other tributes left by mourners on the Mall, the long road running from Buckingham Palace into Central London, while a rehearsal for the queen’s funeral takes place in Westminster Abbey.
Monday, Sept. 19
Elizabeth gets her official send-off at Westminster Abbey, 10 days after her death, with members of her family, British establishment figures and heads of state from around the world in attendance. The day has been declared a public holiday in the U.K., with schools and workplaces mostly closed.
During the morning, Westminster Abbey fills up with British and foreign dignitaries, including all surviving former British prime ministers.
The final mourners are admitted to Westminster Hall to pay their respects at 6:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. ET) before the coffin makes its short journey with the Imperial State Crown, the orb and the scepter all on it.
The new king, his sons alongside the queen's other children follow the coffin on foot on its short but slow journey from Parliament to Westminster Abbey.
At 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET) exactly, the pallbearers stop at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior before Big Ben strikes just once to mark a national two-minute silence.
The Last Post, Reveille and the national anthem end the hourlong funeral service before a procession that could be as long as 1.5 miles carries the coffin past Buckingham Palace to Wellington Arch and on to Elizabeth’s final resting place at Windsor.