Why Is Everyone Talking About Royal Cyphers After The Queen's Death?

As the world reacts to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of her son, King Charles III, to the throne, the number of i's that needed to be dotted and the number of t's that need to be crossed grows by the day. In addition to all of the steps that have occurred and will occur between now and Charles' coronation that directly involve the monarchy itself, there are also plenty of boxes to check off that involve regular Britons. As Independent reports, Britons will eventually have new currency notes, bearing the image Charles III instead of Elizabeth II; when they renew their passports, the new documents will say "His Majesty" instead of "Her Majesty." Professionals whose business cards or stationery reference the monarch will have to make revisions.

Multiple objects that Britons come into contact with will bear new symbols, including the boxes into which they deposit their letters (they're called postboxes, or sometimes pillar boxes). If you take a look at the image above, you can see a man depositing something in a postbox that displays the letters "E II R," topped by a crown. This is what's known as a royal cypher, and all over the realm, they're going to change, now that Charles is king.

The meaning of a royal cypher

Cypher is the British version of the word that's spelled cipher in American English. Most of the time, a cipher is a secret or coded message.

However, there's actually very little that's secret or coded about the royal cyphers that appear here and there across the realm. As Metro explains, the E stands for Elizabeth, the II indicates that she is the second Elizabeth on the throne, and the R stands for Regina — Latin for queen. According to the Daily Mail, Charles debuted his cypher on September 10, during his proclamation by the Accession Council at St. James's Palace: CR, for Charles Rex — Rex being Latin for king, the letters topped by a small crown. The cypher was in the form of a pin on his tie (per The U.S. Sun).

If you know where to look, you can see postboxes across the U.K. bearing not the royal cypher of Queen Elizabeth, but those of her predecessors. For example, a fan site of Royal Mail enthusiasts, the Letter Box Study Group, has compiled photos and locations of decades-old postboxes that still stand across the realm, bearing the cypher of her father, George VI. And according to The Postal Museum, there are (or were, as of 2009) at least a couple postboxes bearing the cypher of George V, Elizabeth's grandfather.