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Summary

The legal term for the death of a monarch is “Demise of the Crown”. This refers to the transfer of authority from one sovereign to another due to death or abdication. By law, a sovereign’s eldest child automatically inherits the Crown. Statute also restricts succession to those who are in “communion with the Church of England”. The death of a monarch – and the accession of a new sovereign – involves the Cabinet, the Privy Council, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Church of England.

Accession Council

The Cabinet meets and, shortly after a Demise, an Accession Council is summonsed to proclaim a new monarch. An Accession Proclamation is read aloud and signed by those present at St James’s Palace. The new sovereign then joins the Council to make a non-statutory personal Declaration and take a statutory oath to protect the Church of Scotland. The proclamation is then read in public at a variety of locations.

Parliament’s role

Parliament meets immediately following a Demise. Members of both Houses retake their oaths and move motions expressing condolences and loyalty to the new sovereign. The former sovereign customarily lies in state at Westminster Hall for several days, which allows members of the public to pay their respects. Finally, there is a state funeral paid for by the government.

This paper

The information in this paper is largely derived from events which followed the Demise of Queen Victoria in January 1901, King Edward VII in May 1910, King George V in January 1936 and King George VI in February 1952. It also draws on the abdication of King Edward VIII in December 1936. It is not intended as a comprehensive guide to what will always occur following a Demise and chiefly describes what has happened in the past.


Documents to download

The UK’s constitutional monarchy

Briefings on the Crown, its role in Parliament, the Commonwealth and the Overseas Territories, and the roles associated with the UK’s constitutional monarch.

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