One day a somber-faced footman will walk across the broad gravel courtyard at the front of Buckingham Palace. He’ll attach a black edged notice to the palace gates. It will be an announcement that everyone knows must come at some point, but no one in Britain looks forward to with anything but resigned gloom. This is one of the first ways in which Queen Elizabeth II’s death will be formally revealed to the world.
Elizabeth came to the throne on the death of her father, George VI in 1952. She was just 25 years old. She had every right to have expected at least a few more years unburdened by the heavy responsibility of monarchy. But His Majesty was only 56 when he passed away at Sandringham, a royal retreat in Norfolk.
George suffered badly from ill health towards the end of his life. A heavy smoker, he had lung cancer and other ailments related to smoking. Coronary thrombosis was the official cause of death. But given that George’s death was hastened by tobacco, and perhaps too the stresses of the Second World War, his relatively early demise is likely to have little bearing on the current Queen’s longevity.