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Opinion Post Elizabeth: God Save the King

British King Charles III arrives at Westminster Abbey with other members of the royal family for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday. (James Forde for The Washington Post)

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LONDON — Britain’s diamond-encrusted, ermine-trimmed Imperial State Crown weighs 2.3 pounds. (“You can’t look down” while wearing it, Queen Elizabeth II once warned; “if you did your neck would break.”) But the pressures weighing on King Charles III are now more than just physical.

Ten days of national mourning and a global outpouring of affection for his mother have some thinking about casting her as Elizabeth the Great. After 73 years as heir, Charles is well trained for the top job. But the laws of mortality alone suggest he will not have a particularly long reign. And his first comments about how he sees his role suggest he may not attempt to greatly differentiate himself from her example.

Elizabeth took steps to smooth the path for Charles’s accession, including saying that his wife, Camilla, should be known as queen consort. Criticism of the decision to elevate Camilla was undercut chiefly because it was Elizabeth’s call. But debates over colonialism and the legacy of monarchy are likely to grow. From the Caribbean to the South Pacific, attitudes vary, ranging from respectful to outright hostile.

Becoming king in a 24/7 digital era, Charles is expected to be even more public-facing than his mother. So far, he appears to enjoy the engagement. But he’s also had less princely moments — over, of all things, leaky pens and ink pots, that earned jeers on social media. One uncertainty: Might Charles alienate the public inadvertently, perhaps by sharing social or political opinions? Here’s another: Will more family drama — a memoir by his son Prince Harry is still in the works — tilt the Windsors back into soap opera territory?

Historically, coronations take place about 15 months after a new monarch ascends the British throne. That won’t be the case here. Mourning periods have become much shorter than in generations past; a year used to be the standard for a deceased monarch. Other changes with time, including advances in technology, mean that it simply won’t take as long to build the infrastructure for the crowning ceremony. There’s also a risk in waiting: Public affection toward Charles jumped after the queen’s death, and he’ll want to capitalize on that. The longer he waits for the pageantry of a coronation, the more time critics will have to suggest that the crown skip a generation or perhaps disappear altogether. (By law, the crown can’t skip to Prince William — but that doesn’t change the reality that Charles’s eldest son has long been more popular than his dad.)

I suspect that coronation plans will be announced soon, with a ceremony likely in the next 90 days. Disagree? Tweet at me (@Autumnsan1) if you have other estimates. For now, we’ll be in your inboxes again next week — sooner, of course, if news breaks. Thank you for following the royal transition with us, and find more coverage on

King Charles III is going to surprise us, predicts Opinions guest writer Ben Judah. “Britain’s new head of state is a loud admirer of Islam, a critic of Western interventionism and a champion of multiculturalism who will win his country new friends — and some populist enemies — across the world.”

Queen Elizabeth II's coffin traveled from Westminster Hall to Wellington Arch and to her final resting place, Windsor Castle, for her state funeral on Sept. 19. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard/The Washington Post)

Didn’t have hours to devote to Monday’s events? This Post video takes you through the queen’s funeral in less than five minutes. For highlights from our coverage, read on.

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, was buried Monday night after a private family service that followed two elaborate and highly choreographed public ceremonies and processions. The remains of her husband of more than 70 years, Prince Philip, were placed next to her in a vault under St. George’s Chapel on the Windsor Castle estate.

By the numbers: About a quarter-million people passed by the queen’s coffin lying in state, preliminary government figures show, Karla Adam and Annabelle Timsit write. If those numbers hold, the queen’s would not be the largest funeral queue ever, royal or otherwise. An article on the Guinness World Records website reports that more than 300,000 people passed by the coffin of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, in 1952. (Another numerical factoid in all this coverage? Funeral pacing is 75 steps per minute.)

Queen Elizabeth II's two corgis, Muick and Sandy, and horse Emma were seen at Windsor Castle ahead of her funeral at St. George’s Chapel on Sept. 19. (Video: The Washington Post)

The news you really want: More on the queen’s beloved corgis and Fell pony, who stood by as the procession reached Windsor on Monday; and what Charles wrote in the note atop the queen’s coffin (yup, in the gorgeous floral arrangement that held that spider).

More bonus animal content: After foreign presidents gifted the queen horses this year in honor of her Platinum Jubilee, London bureau chief William Booth wrote about her lifelong love of horses (riding, showing, breeding, racing and watching them).

Couture clues: Sending signals through fashion is a royal tradition. Usually the point is an homage to a host country, wearing national colors or, say, an outfit by a local designer. On Monday, we saw Catherine, Princess of Wales, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in black versions of dresses they had previously worn — which kept focus on the late queen, as opposed to any new fashion choices. Features reporter Ashley Fetters Maloy looks at details of their dresses and what was worn by Camilla.

Search queen: The queen’s funeral was among the most Google searched topics on Monday in nearly all of the 49 countries tracked by the site, The Post reports.

In India, the queen’s death evoked some sadness — and a lot of apathy, write Niha Masih and Anant Gupta. Most Indians, they report, “particularly young people, felt little nostalgia. The queen’s death has sparked a complicated conversation here over colonial legacy, and so even as world leaders and heads of state gathered in London for the service, there was no profuse expression of sorrow in the country that once was a crucial corner of the British realm.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t attend Monday’s services.

ICYMI, symbolism explained: This graphic by Bonnie Berkowitz, Shelly Tan and Júlia Ledur explains the significance of items and troops in Monday’s processions. This interactive by Aaron Steckelberg, Manuel Canales and Ruby Mellen looks inside St. George’s Chapel and what’s known about Elizabeth II’s final resting place.

The palace’s official Instagram account (@theroyalfamily) shared this image after the queen was buried Monday night.

For other memorable images and videos from Monday’s events, check out our collection.

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Can Charles modernize the monarchy and still keep the magic, asks Opinions columnist (and former London correspondent) Eugene Robinson. Both the times and the king’s nature (“at once introspective and confessional”) will demand more exposure. “The question is whether a smaller, more modern, less grand, more open monarchy — which might be inevitable — can still captivate hundreds of millions of people in Britain and around the world.”


In most ways, Elizabeth II reigned. But when it came to her image, the queen ruled until the end, writes film critic Ann Hornaday. Most of us have been saying goodbye to a character both real and imagined — “an amalgam of Hollywood myth, romantic fantasy, palace PR and the redoubtable sovereign herself.”


A farewell production for the ages. “There have been royal blockbusters before, but never a show quite like this,” write Kevin Sullivan, Mary Jordan, Karla Adam and William Booth. This intricately staged production — planned for decades — had it all: “elaborate costumes, bagpipes and tolling bells, soldiers on horseback, cannons and castles.” And though the streets were jammed with crowds, a far bigger audience was watching remotely.


The artful messaging of the queen’s funeral? The monarchy endures, writes dance critic Sarah L. Kaufman. This was a theater of power, she argues, intended to show unshakable continuity. “Nothing has ended, said all the military displays; the monarchy’s ancient heritage lives on. We are a united front, said the tight-lipped royal family, walking behind the coffin in well-choreographed order.”


The last person to view the queen’s coffin lying in state did the epic queue twice. Really. It took Christina Heerey, who works for the Royal Air Force, about 14 hours, writes Karla Adam.


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