16 Things That Have Changed Since Queen Elizabeth Died
From the royal line of succession to the British national anthem, banknotes and post boxes, here's everything that has changed in the U.K. since the death of Queen Elizabeth II
In September 2022, millions of people around the world mourned Queen Elizabeth II’s death. But the end of her 70-year-long reign as the British monarch forced change beyond Princes Charles becoming king—change that affected the Commonwealth, the British people and the royal family tree. “The world is changing, and so is the monarchy,” says British royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams. “Apart from the most obvious changes following Queen Elizabeth’s death, such as new banknotes, coins or postal boxes, we are also seeing the monarchy gradually modernize itself.”
In the wake of the first anniversary of her death, as royal mourners visit where Queen Elizabeth is buried and familiarize themselves with lesser known Queen Elizabeth facts, we’re looking at all the things that have changed since Britain’s longest-reigning monarch passed away.
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The royal line of succession
Queen Elizabeth’s death marked a natural shift in the line of succession to the throne among her kids and grandchildren: Her oldest son, Charles, became King Charles III. Prince William is now the heir apparent. Next in the royal line of succession are his kids: Prince George, the oldest son of William and Kate Middleton, might still be a schoolboy, but he is now second in the line of succession, followed by his siblings, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Technically, Prince Harry is number five, even though it is highly unlikely he would be king, as he is no longer a working royal. His son, Prince Archie, is sixth in the royal line, and his daughter, Princess Lilibet, is seventh.
The British national anthem
The British national anthem has changed from “God Save the Queen” (sung at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation) to its original version, “God Save the King.” Considering how long Queen Elizabeth reigned, it comes as little surprise that it took most Brits and Commonwealth citizens some time to get used to the new line—luckily, the rest of the song stayed the same. “God Save the King” was first performed in London in 1745 and became Britain’s official national anthem in the early 19th century. Just like the American national anthem, it is mainly sung at official and royal celebrations and major sports events.
The slimmed-down monarchy
Given that the monarchy had long been criticized for the money it cost the British taxpayers, King Charles’s slimmed-down monarchy was welcomed with delight by many. According to Fitzwilliams, it wasn’t Charles’s active choice to shrink the royal household but rather a natural development. “Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, no longer represents the crown, and Prince Harry and Meghan stepped down from their royal duties,” he says. “That leaves the monarchy with just 10 senior working royals, including the king and the queen themselves, and only four of them are under 70 years old.” In other words: Fewer royals taking on official engagements means there’s fewer staff needed, making the monarchy a tad slimmer and cheaper.
The royal cypher
The British monarch’s monogram, also known as the royal cypher, consists of his or her initials, along with a symbol of the crown and the title Rex (Latin for “king”) or Regina (Latin for “queen”). They appear on some government buildings, state documents, post boxes and more. King Charles’s cypher was designed by the College of Arms, the official heraldic authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and most of the Commonwealth states, which opened its doors in 1484. The king has personally selected the final version from several designs. And just like with the banknotes and coins, King Charles’s visual identity will gradually replace Queen Elizabeth’s cypher where applicable. The royal cypher is also used to frank letters leaving the royal household.
The monarch’s address
While Queen Elizabeth spent most of her life at Buckingham Palace, King Charles and Queen Camilla reside at Clarence House, one of the many royal estates and just a stone’s throw away from the more prominent palace. The couple had moved into the building in August 2003, following the Queen Mother’s death, and unlike previous monarchs, have kept their address even after the official coronation. But that may not be the case in the future. “Buckingham Palace is currently undergoing a 10-year renovation,” says Fitzwilliams. “It is assumed that King Charles will move there once the refurbishment is complete.” The Queen’s former residence is due to be completed in 2027, so Charles has a few more years to enjoy his current home, which he has reportedly become very fond of over the years.
Coins and banknotes
The reigning monarch’s face is shown on coins and banknotes, which means the U.K.’s currency is in need of a makeover. While millions of new 50-pence coins showing King Charles (facing, as per tradition, the opposite direction of the late queen) have been in circulation since the end of 2022, banknotes with the monarch’s portrait will only start to appear in summer 2024. According to the Bank of England, Charles’s face will be on the front and the see-through security window of four banknotes: £5, £10, £20 and £50. That being said, this doesn’t mean that coins and banknotes showing Queen Elizabeth will no longer be valid. “Both versions will remain in circulation, with the older ones just gradually replaced,” says Fitzwilliams. This procedure is in line with King Charles’s aim to minimize the environmental and financial impact of the change. There are currently more than 4.6 billion banknotes and 29 billion coins in circulation in the U.K., according to the Royal Mint.
Stamps and post boxes
If you travel across the pond and want to send some postcards back home, watch out for stamps featuring King Charles’s face. The first new stamps were released in April 2023 and show a minimalist image of the monarch, which, according to the Royal Mail’s director of external affairs, David Gold, was Charles’s special request. Unlike Queen Elizabeth II, the new king does not wear a crown on the picture. King Charles is the seventh monarch to appear on the British stamps (the first one being Queen Victoria in 1840), and stamps featuring his late mother’s portrait will be sold as long as stock lasts.
Speaking of the postal service, Britain’s signature bright red letter boxes with Elizabeth’s cypher—popular photo opportunities for tourists visiting London and other parts of the country—are still a common sight, but new ones will feature Charles’s initials instead.
Military uniforms and police hats
The uniforms of the British armed forces and the helmets worn by police also feature the royal cypher. However, King Charles’s low-cost approach means that no new uniforms or hats will be ordered before the old ones are worn out. This explains why not even the police staff working at King Charles’s coronation wore the new reign’s emblem. “It will take years until all the uniforms and hats are replaced,” says Fitzwilliams.
Royal travel and state visits
While Queen Elizabeth hardly traveled during her final years (Prince William and Princess Kate represented her at several trips overseas), Fitzwilliams predicts there will be much more royal travel now that King Charles has ascended the throne. His first official state visit as a monarch took him to Germany in March, where he spent three days meeting Ukrainian refugees, promoting environmental sustainability and showing off his German language skills. A visit to France, planned for the same month, has been postponed until September.
Casual royal engagements
During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, royal protocols and codes of conduct were treated like the Bible. But now that Charles is king, it seems that even the most senior royals have swapped upper-class stiffness for a tad of casualty. King Charles can regularly be seen chatting and joking with royal fans during official appearances, while Prince William and Princess Kate have repeatedly hugged strangers and posed for selfies—asking for a photo was considered a major faux pas not long ago! “The monarchy has to change in line with the world if it wants to stay relevant,” says Fitzwilliams. Of course, this doesn’t mean the British royals will soon publicly turn into party animals. There’s still a whole book of royal etiquette rules to follow.
In July 2023, the first British passports bearing the title of “His Majesty” instead of “Her Majesty” were issued in the U.K. Queen Elizabeth II had appeared on the documents since 1952, so most Brits have never had a travel document in which she did not feature. Valid passports won’t need to be updated but will remain legal until they naturally expire after 10 years. It is the second time in just three years that the British passport changes its appearance: Following the country’s exit from the European Union, the burgundy-colored document was replaced by the original blue one. And speaking of passports, did you know King Charles no longer needs a passport to travel abroad, as the documents are issued in his name.
Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which mention the British monarch on their cover, will also change.
King Charles has established more than 20 official charities over the decades and has supported hundreds more. But now that he is king and no longer the Prince of Wales, he has to cut down on his volunteer work. “The palace is currently looking into all the links to different organizations,” says Fitzwilliams. “As a monarch, Charles has less time for his charity work, and on top, there are fewer working royals who can support and represent him at charity engagements.” While it is yet to be seen which charity organizations the king will let go, there is no doubt he will keep fighting for the causes closest to his heart, namely sustainability and the protection of the environment.
Food at the palace
King Charles was praised by animal rights activists for banning foie gras from all royal palaces. An official letter to the PETA campaign group confirmed that the dish, made from force-fed goose or ducks, would neither be bought or served during his reign. According to media reports, Charles, an organic farmer himself, had stopped serving foie gras at his properties more than a decade ago. The king has also repeatedly promoted a more plant-based diet, both for animal rights and environmental reasons. “The business of what we eat of course is important,” he said in a BBC interview before he became king. “For years, I haven’t eaten meat and fish on two days a week and I don’t eat dairy products on one day a week. If more did that, you would reduce a lot of the pressure on the environment and everything else.”
King Charles quickly turned words into deeds: The so-called coronation quiche, the dish chosen by him for the day he took the throne, was vegetarian.
Environmental initiatives at the palace
Charles’s efforts to tackle climate change don’t end with his choice of food. The king has been known as an environmental activist for decades. “When Charles became king, he asked the staff to turn the thermostats in the royal palaces down, especially in rooms that were not being used, and stop heating the swimming pools,” says Fitzwilliams. He has reportedly swapped gas lamps for electric ones at his Clarence House residence, continues to recycle the bathwater and runs his Aston Martin on sustainable fuel. “He is determined to cut down emissions and set an example on how to live more sustainably,” Fitzwilliams says.
King Charles is also head of state of 14 Commonwealth nations, as well the Commonwealth itself, an association of 56 independent countries. But things haven’t been running smoothly during his first year. Jamaica and Belize were the first countries to announce that they were looking into leaving the British monarch and becoming republics with their own heads of states. And while the Caribbean nations have not yet translated their plans into actions, other Commonwealth states might follow their lead. “Time will tell what will happen, but it’s certainly a challenge for King Charles,” Fitzwilliams says.
If you intend to become a citizen of the U.K., you now have to swear allegiance to King Charles III instead of Queen Elizabeth II. All new Brits over the age of 18 are required to make the official promise in a citizenship ceremony before they receive their certificate. The exact wording to remember is “I, (name), swear by Almighty God that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles III, his Heirs and Successors, according to law.” The change does not only apply to Brits but also to Commonwealth citizens around the world.
About the expert
- Richard Fitzwilliams is one of Britain’s most prominent royal experts. He has followed the lives of the royal family for decades and regularly shares his expertise in media outlets around the world.
- The Royal Family: “Succession”
- The Royal Family: “National Anthem”
- The Royal Family: “His Majesty The King’s cypher”
- The Royal Family: “Reservicing Buckingham Palace”
- The Royal Family: “The King”
- The Royal Family: “The Commonwealth”
- Sky News: “King Charles planning ‘less expensive’ coronation and ‘slimmed down’ working monarchy”
- College of Arms: About Us
- Bank of England: “King Charles III banknotes”
- Bank of England: “Banknote statistics”
- The Guardian: “UK passports issued in name of King Charles III for first time”
- The Royal Mint: “UK’s Circulating Coin Mintage Figures”
- BBC: “No crown for King Charles on new stamp”
- BBC: “King Charles: Foie gras banned at royal residences”
- The Telegraph: “Police must keep Queen Elizabeth’s cypher until uniform is worn out”
- The Independent: “Why has the heating been turned down at Buckingham Palace?”
- Metro: “Is King Charles III vegetarian or vegan amid coronation quiche announcement?”
- Le Monde: “Jamaica and Belize consider becoming republics ahead of King Charles’ coronation”
- Gov.uk: “Citizenship ceremonies”