As her heir, the Prince of Wales will be the first to know of his mother’s passing. He will probably be at her deathbed, unless she dies suddenly or unexpectedly.
Upon his mother’s death, Charles will be king immediately. His siblings and children will kiss his hands. Then constitutional government will kick in.
The Prime Minister will need to be informed immediately of the passing of the head of state.
That job will fall to the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Edward Young, who will go to a secure telephone line and tell the PM: ‘London Bridge is down.’
Then, from the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre in London, the news will go directly to the respective prime ministers of the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth for whom she has served as a figurehead.
For a time, her subjects will not know she is dead and that the throne has passed to her eldest son. Governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first. But in the world of 24-hour news it will not stay secret for long.
All this, however, is jumping the gun. Given the Queen’s history of robust health, perhaps a far more likely scenario is that her great age will mean she herself will trigger a period of regency, thus ensuring safe stewardship of the great office she has held and worked so hard to secure.
Senior former members of her household believe the Queen will grant her eldest son the full power to reign while she still lives because of the respect she holds for the institution of monarchy.
Abdication, however, is not even a consideration. One senior aide admitted to me the ‘dusting off’ of the Regency Act. My understanding is that senior figures, with the Queen’s blessing, have been examining various scenarios.
Prince Charles (right) is already the power behind the throne and Camilla (left) is set to be his Queen
Before his unceremonious departure, the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, was awarded a second knighthood for, according to the citation: ‘A new approach to constitutional matters . . . [and] the preparation for the transition to a change of reign.’ This was interpreted as the clearest sign yet that the Queen was getting ready to pass on the mantle.
At 92, the Queen knows that even she cannot go on for ever. And so — smoothly, discreetly, and unnoticed by many — a handover of royal power is taking place right before our eyes.
This increased responsibility means Charles is much more than a deputy, stepping up to stand in for the Queen. As we approach the end of 2018, a more accurate description of his role is ‘Shadow King’, as it is he, not Her Majesty, who is now doing most of the ‘heavy lifting’ for the monarchy at home and abroad.
His increased workload sees the Prince regularly working 14-hour days and he carries out more than 600 engagements a year at home and abroad.
Indeed, now that she does not travel overseas, Charles’s royal tours representing her across the globe are state visits. It is, in effect, a job-share monarchy, with the heir leading the way for the House of Windsor, not following.
There are those who insist the Queen is still as sprightly, fit and sharp as she was two decades ago. This is not true. She is still sharp on matters of state, but requires her schedule to reflect her age and capacity. Even she thinks those loyal subjects who believe nothing needs to change are deluding themselves.
It’s no coincidence that she’s been spending more and more time with her grandson Prince William, or that his duties — such as making a historic visit to Israel and the West Bank earlier this year — are expanding.
But the Queen has no desire to push aside her son and heir.
Indeed, she has been meeting Prince Charles regularly in private for some time to discuss matters of state.
No private secretaries or royal aides of any description are ever present. It’s always just the two of them — and they both view these meetings as crucial for both the smooth running of the country and the eventual succession.
Practical and unsentimental about her advancing years, the Queen, who is known around Whitehall as Reader No 1, has had Charles added to the distribution list of despatch boxes that she is sent. In the event of her death or inability to continue through illness, the Queen has ensured that her heir is fully primed and ready to take over.
Some close to the monarch say that, if she reaches the age of 95, she will make a monumental decision and choose to officially allow Charles to take over the stewardship of her reign.
She will, they say, officially transfer all executive powers to him as Prince Regent until her death, when he will become king. This would enable her to fudge the issue of her not fulfilling her Coronation Oath to God and her people to serve as queen regnant until her death.
Others, who claim to be equally well informed, say that such a move or use of the ‘Regent’ title is not really necessary. After all, as the Queen made clear to the unassuming 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, when he went to see her on the occasion of his resignation in her Golden Jubilee year of 2002: ‘That’s something I can’t do.’
Times, however, do change. In truth, with the Queen now well into her tenth decade, senior officials within the Royal Household confirm that Prince Charles is effectively already our ‘Prince Regent’, a king in all but name.
Granted, Her Majesty is a consecrated monarch who pledged in her coronation oath to serve throughout her life. But can she seriously remain as head of state if she lives to be a centenarian like her mother?
The last time the Regency Act was invoked was in 1810 during the reign of George III, when the monarch became permanently deranged. It meant his eldest son assumed the title Prince Regent for ten years until, on his father’s death, he became George IV.
Queen Elizabeth II has enjoyed remarkably good health, both mental and physical, and there is nothing to suggest that Regency would be necessary in the way that it was for George III.
Behind palace gates, however, preparations have been made in recent months for all eventualities, with Her Majesty’s blessing.
Strangely, until 1937, our constitutional law had no permanent provision for a regent to cover the situation of a monarch being incapable of performing his or her duties.
It was the debilitating illness of the Queen’s grandfather, George V — who suffered from chronic bronchitis from 1935 until his death — that led to the reformed Regency Act including the intriguing possibility of a Regency if ‘the Sovereign is for some definite cause not available for the performance of those functions’. It is not clear what situations this covers.
Perhaps it is vague enough to allow the monarch simply to pass the baton to her heir and effectively retire — thus effecting the smoothest of successions with the minimum of fuss.
The Queen is au courant with the passage of time, and how her age impacts on the institution she serves. She has, impeccable sources have told me, already drawn a line in the sand, a date when, like Prince Philip, she will effectively retire from public life.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail – Robert Jobson