Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II passed away at her Balmoral estate in Scotland on Sept. 8, 2022 after 70 years on the throne. She was 96 years old.
“The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty the Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son, Charles, wrote in a statement. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”
Did Charles automatically become King of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth II?
Yes, Charles, as the eldest child of the monarch, automatically became King of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
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The Privy Council Office, a government agency of the United Kingdom, says “a new Sovereign succeeds to the throne as soon as his or her predecessor dies.”
Though a formal proclamation hasn't happened yet, King Charles III automatically became Great Britain's newest ruler the moment his mother passed away.
“Today the crown passes, as it has done for more than 1,000 years, to our new monarch, our new head of state, His Majesty King Charles III,” the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Liz Truss said during a press conference.
In a separate statement posted on Twitter, Truss wrote, “God save the King,” a reference to the British national anthem. The Royal Family has also referred to Charles as “The King” and “His Majesty the King” in statements posted to Twitter following Queen Elizabeth II’s passing.
According to University College London, this automatic succession takes place because of an old common law rule called Rex nunquam moritur, which translates to “The king never dies.”
“The rule recognizes that the sovereign may die, but [the] government must carry on,” the college writes on its website. “Subsequent ceremonies such as the Accession Council and the coronation in their own ways merely endorse a succession that has already taken place.”
Succession to the throne is determined by hundreds of years of British law. Historically, the first in line to the throne was the monarch’s eldest son – if they had one. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II's father, had two daughters and Elizabeth was the eldest.
But the law changed in 2013 to allow eldest daughters born after October 2011 to take precedent over younger sons. Charles was Queen Elizabeth’s first child, making him the clear successor to the throne.
Even though Charles is already king, the Accession Council issues a formal proclamation of his succession.
An Accession Council is usually convened within 24 hours of a monarch’s death and is held to “make formal proclamation” of the succession of their successor to the throne, the Privy Council Office explains. The council should be held before a meeting of Parliament, which should take place as soon as possible after the death.
Charlie Proctor, a royal correspondent and editor-in-chief of the news website Royal Central, said in a tweet on Sept. 8 that members of Parliament and the House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament, have been summoned to London and will meet on Sept. 9 to take “an oath of allegiance to King Charles III.”
King Charles III also becomes Head of the Commonwealth, which consists of 15 countries including the United Kingdom, following his mother’s death, according to University College London. The role is not hereditary or automatic and is instead chosen by Commonwealth leaders. That choice took place in 2018 so it would be effective upon Elizabeth’s death.
"We recognize the role of the Queen in championing the Commonwealth and its peoples. The next head of the Commonwealth shall be his Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales,” the Commonwealth Heads of Government said on April 20, 2018.