Here's How Buckingham Palace Officially Signaled The Queen's Death

Since 1837, Buckingham Palace in London has been home to many members of British royalty. That list includes Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96, according to the crown's official website. Elizabeth's son, Charles — now King Charles III — succeeds his mother on the throne. Given the historic importance of Buckingham Palace in British royal history and as the official royal residence, it was one of the first official places in England to commemorate the queen when she died. Much like all the other important rituals that happen upon a British monarch's death, how the staff at this royal palace shared the sad news had all the hallmarks of tradition and ceremony.

In her final years, Queen Elizabeth II didn't actually live at Buckingham Palace. The massive 775-room palace was under renovation in 2022, and the late queen preferred other royal residences, such as Windsor Castle (via Hello! Magazine). In addition to a royal residence, the massive structure has served as a place to host regal ceremonies. It is also a spot for tourists to wander the grounds during the summer months, and it's where newly-crowned kings and queens gather to wave to their crowds, as Queen Elizabeth II herself did after her 1953 coronation ceremony (via The New York Times). It was also on September 7, 2022, that a Buckingham Palace source revealed that, due to poor health, the queen had canceled important meetings. 

Crowds gathered at Buckingham Palace once Elizabeth's death was announced

Per her doctor's advice, Queen Elizabeth rested throughout the remainder of the day on September 7, as ABC News explains. But by September 8, members of the royal family flew from around the globe to be at the bedside of the ailing monarch, including Elizabeth's son Charles (now King Charles III) and Charles' eldest son William (now the Prince of Wales), who is next in line after his father for the British throne. In a statement released on the official royal family website, King Charles announced that the queen, his mother, had died. "The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family," he said.

Around that same time, Buckingham Palace also announced that Elizabeth died peacefully in Scotland. The palace then followed tradition by hanging a note on the outside gates to inform visitors of the death. After Elizabeth's died, the official website of the palace went dark other than a photo of the late queen with her birth and death dates. Historically, English citizens have flocked to Buckingham Palace to mourn English royalty. Such was the case as the news of Queen Elizabeth's death spread (via The New York Times). When the news broke, the grounds of Buckingham Palace were accordingly flooded with people. Among them was Michael Ensor, who told CNN, "I can't go to Balmoral." Buckingham Palace was the nearest he could get.

Flags at Buckingham palace were at half-mast

Perhaps most important of all, the tradition followed by Buckingham Palace in the wake of the queen's death was to fly flags at half-mast. Though Charles immediately became king of England upon his mother's death, a ceremonial body called the Accession Council will gather at St. James's Palace, near Buckingham Palace, to officially mark the transition (per The New York Times). Another notable tradition linked to the official royal residence in the wake of the queen's passing is that after her funeral ceremony at Westminster Abbey, her coffin will be carried to Buckingham Palace, where it will be put on display for four days and guarded around the clock.

Among those who gathered at Buckingham at the time the queen's death was announced was James Penny, who was there as the flags were lowered to half-mast. At that time, Penny told CNN, "The Queen has always been a role model of stability and consistency." Elsewhere, James Cox echoed these sentiments. "She's always kept the country together in moments like this. It's quite uncertain now," he told the outlet. Despite the rain, flowers and candles were also left at the palace gates. Touchingly, Platinum Jubilee News shared a picture on Twitter of a double rainbow that reportedly appeared over both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle just as the Union Jack flag was lowered. Journalist Victoria Murphy was also at Buckingham Palace immediately after the queen's death and tweeted a picture of the Buckingham Palace flag at half-mast.