Prince Philip is 95 years old and has had a few health problems over the past several years. As with most royal events, there is protocol that will be taken if and when the Duke of Edinburgh passes away.
An emergency meeting at Buckingham Palace this evening had many people wondering if it had anything to do with Prince Philip. Unconfirmed reports of his passing quickly circulated on social media, however, an announcement was made that Philip, alive and well, will officially retired from his royal duties this fall.
If Philip does pass away, here is what you need to know:
1. BBC News Will Receive the Confirmation First
When the time comes, the news of Prince Philip’s death will be confirmed first by BBC. If Philip dies at night, it is believed that the announcement will not go out until sometime the next morning, around 8:00 a.m. local time, according to The Daily Beast.
BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation. The news outlet is located in London and was founded 94 years ago.
2. Flags Will Fly at Half Mast, But Not the Royal Standard flag at Buckingham Palace
“Eight days of official mourning would be observed by all staff at the palace. Flags at major institutions and military establishments (especially naval ones, given the Duke’s service in the Royal Navy) would be flown at half mast, but the Royal Standard flag which flutters above Buckingham Palace when the Queen is in residence would not be lowered to half mast.”
Flags are flown at half mast as a sign of honor, respect, mourning, or distress. In the United States, for example, the American flag is flown at half mast on September 11, on Memorial Day, and when a former president dies, amongst other things.
The British flags are flown at half mast for similar reasons. A flag lowered below the summit on its pole is considered a “mark of mourning.”
“An alternative mark of mourning, used when half-masting is unsuitable, is to add a black cravat or ribbon to the top of the flag, at the hoist. The above cover Royal and National Mourning, but flags may be flown at half-mast on private or non-Government buildings on other relevant occasions.”
3. The Queen Will Have an ‘Official’ Period of Mourning
In the immediate eight days following Prince Philip’s death, Queen Elizabeth II will enter an official period of mourning. During this time, the Queen will not work.
“Laws will not be given the Royal Assent, and affairs of state will be paused out of respect for her consort. After a further period of official Royal Mourning is over 30 days later, it is widely believed that Elizabeth…will resume public duties and engagements and things will carry on as normal.”
The Queen and Prince Philip have been married nearly 70 years.
4. The Announcement Protocol Has Changed Over the Years
As Prince Philip has gotten older and his health has declined, the protocol has been discussed at length.
“The plans for how to handle Philip’s death are kept under constant review by senior courtiers, and were significantly updated and refreshed after the Duke was [hospitalized] with a nasty bladder infection in 2012.”
Although the palace has gotten a bit more progressive when it comes to using social media, there aren’t any plans for the official royal Twitter or Instagram accounts to send out any such news.
The Queen and her husband have both fallen ill from time to time, most recently around the Christmas holiday. The two were sick with “heavy colds” that forced them to cancel their annual train trip. A sickness of any kind at an advanced age can become serious very quickly.
5. There Is Similar Protocol for When Queen Elizabeth II Dies
In a 2015 report by The Daily Beast, it is confirmed that if the Queen passes away at night, the confirmation of the news will not be confirmed until the next morning. Again, BBC News will be the first publication to post after getting word from Buckingham Palace.
The time between the Queen’s passing and the succession of her son, Prince Charles, is referred to as “The Bridge.” This period of time is not expected to exceed three months.