Queen Elizabeth II Birthday
Photo: Reuters

On Wednesday night, swirling rumors about Queen Elizabeth's death turned out to be unfounded. She had simply summoned a meeting to announce that Prince Philip would be stepping down from public life later this year. But the Twitter chatter raised the question: What happens when the 91-year-old monarch, who has overseen the United Kingdom since 1951, does pass on?

 

Although the monarchy is considered (correctly) to be largely symbolic, the queen's death will have real economic and political consequences for the United Kingdom.

 

1. "London Bridge" will go into effect
The Guardian recently reported on the secret plans that will be triggered immediately after the queen's death: Her secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, will call Prime Minister Theresa May on a secure line and say "London Bridge is down." News will then be sent to the 15 governments outside the U.K. where the queen is head of state and the 36 other nations in the Commonwealth for which she is a figurehead.

2. The world media will spring into action
In the U.K., coverage plans for TV and radio are extensively prepared. Radio stations have two different playlists prepared: basically, sad and super-sad. The Times U.K. newspaper has 11 days' worth of prepared memorial material.

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3. A 12-day period of mourning begins
The queen's coffin will lie in Buckingham Palace for four days, then it will be moved to Westminster Hall to lie in state for four days. A planned route for mourners will hold 1 million people. The funeral will be held the following day, after which she'll be buried at Windsor Castle.

4. Prince Charles will become king
Assuming he is still alive, Prince Charles will formally ascend to the throne during an "Accession Council" the day after the queen's death. Camilla Parker-Bowles, currently the princess consort, will get the official title of queen, as the wife of the king always does. Prince William and Kate Middleton will become the Prince and Princess of Wales.

5. The London Stock Exchange will officially close
It will be shut for at least the day of the queen's funeral and perhaps several days, "potentially costing the economy billions," The Mirror UK reported. Each "bank holiday" day in the U.K. is estimated to cost its economy between $1.3 billion to $7.75 billion.

6. The Commonwealth may break up
There are 53 countries in the British Commonwealth. In 16 of them, the queen is the official head of state, including Australia, Canada and Jamaica. Many believe this coalition is held together out of affection for the queen, and that after her death, some of these countries may want out. In 1999, a separation referendum in Australia came within 10 points of passing. Currently, more than three-quarters of Canadians believe the head of state should be Canadian. "Charles might solve the problem," an Ontario mayor told The Guardian.

7. But the British monarchy will endure, for now
There's no sign that the queen's death will do away with the crown altogether as 66 percent of Britons have said the country is better off as a monarchy.