Look Out For These Little Changes To London Following The Death Of Elizabeth II

By M@ Last edited 22 months ago

Last Updated 14 September 2022

Look Out For These Little Changes To London Following The Death Of Elizabeth II

The Queen is dead. Long live the King. And with him come many changes, some big, some small. Yes, we'll get new coins, notes and stamps — all of this is well documented. But what are the little changes we'll see around London over the coming days, weeks and months?

Updated pub boards

A list of kings and queens since Charles II with a floral basket beside
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese really is ye olde. Space for two more monarchs...

"What's the oldest pub in London" is a perennial debate with no clear answer. The candidate pubs are easy to spot, though, as they usually keep a list of reigns outside their premises, to show off just how many kings and queens the place has notionally 'seen'.

The most famous is probably Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. It proudly displays two monarchical lists, one on its Fleet Street frontage and one beside its alleyway entrance. Neither had yet been updated on our visit on 12 September. These begin with Charles II (in whose reign the pub was supposedly rebuilt after the Great Fire) and stop (for the time being) at Elizabeth II. There's space for Charles III and one of his successors, after which a new sign, or an extension, will be needed. (Given the eccentric typesetting, it might be best to start from scratch right now.)

The Prospect of Whitby's list of kings and queens since Henry VIII

The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping has a similar list, which claims origins in the reign of Henry VIII. It has space for Charles III, but not his presumed successor William V.

QCs to KCs at the Inns of Court

Anyone learned enough in law to become a Queen's Counsel (QC) saw their job title change instantaneously on 8 September. All are now known as King's Counsels (KCs). A KC is a senior trial lawyer, the type who wear silk gowns and fancy wigs.

A list of barrister names on a white wall. A QC's name is at the top indicated by a red arrow

This change in postnomial will have little effect on the appearance of London. However, if you head into any of the Inns of Court, such as Middle or Inner Temple, you'll find lists of those who work within each chamber. Most include the name of a QC, which will now have to be edited. We had a scout around on 12 September to see if we could find London's most nimble lawyer, but without success.

Royal warrant switcheroos

Prince of Wales feathers with Royal Warrant info below
Farlows, suppliers of fishing tackle to the Prince of Wales, on Pall Mall

We've all seen the royal warrants on our breakfast cereal, ketchup bottles and, um, fishing tackle. These are awarded to companies who regular supply senior royal households with goods or services.

A prominent plant holder on a brown-brick wall with three royal warrants alongside
Three Royal Warrants outside Ede and Ravenscroft on Burlington Gardens

If you walk around the posher end of town (i.e. St James's and Mayfair) you'll often see colourful plaques on display, which boast of the royal patronage. Now we have a new monarch and a new Prince of Wales, many of these markers will need updating.

Charles III post boxes

An Edward VIII cipher on a bright red postbox
A rare Edward VIII cypher.

Every monarch since Victoria has experienced the unending joy of seeing their initials on a post box. Known as the 'royal cypher', the initials tell you under whose reign the box was installed. Even Edward VIII, an uncrowned king whose reign lasted less than a year, has a small number about town. Thanks to her long reign, Elizabeth II has more post boxes than any other monarch.

See also: The evolution of the post box.

It's unlikely any existing post boxes will be adapted for Charles. Rather, we'll see his initials rolled out on to any new boxes. Expect a big PR (or should that be CR?) fanfare when the very first Charles pillar appears on the streets.

Royal Mail insignia

The Royal Mail logo

All Royal Mail depots, vans and even uniforms are emblazoned with the Queen's crown, and most vehicles also carry the EIIR cypher. This will gradually change, to show the King's Crown and an updated cypher.

The difference between the Queen's and King's Crowns is fairly subtle, but you might find the Royal Mail logo looks a little bit unusual the first time you see a Charles version. A Queen's crown has two clear arches, while the King's is more of a dome shape.

Two crowns - a Queen's on the left and a King's on the right

Charles III police helmets

The other place we'll see a change of insignia is on the uniforms of police officers and similar personnel. Most police helmets currently carry the EIIR cypher, as well as the Queen's crown. These will change to CIIIR and a King's crown in due course.

Institution names

A dirty-looking yet elegantly designed corner theatre
Her Majesty's Theatre... soon to be His Majesty's. Image by Seth Anderson, creative commons licence

Various institutions with links to the monarchy have now changed name, so expect signage to shift at some point soon. Her Majesty's Prisons are now His Majesty's. We now pay our taxes to His Majesty's Revenue and Customs. HMS Belfast, if said out in full, would now be His Majesty's Ship Belfast (although given it's now a museum ship and not a military vessel, this may be stretching things).

One London landmark that definitely will see a name change is Her Majesty's Theatre on Haymarket. It was known as His Majesty's Theatre until Elizabeth's Accession in 1952, and will return to that name at "an appropriate time" now we once again have a King.

A statue of Queen Elizabeth

A sculpture of Elizabeth II in a headscarf with a corgi
The Queen and corgi sculpture in Windsor

London is almost certain to get a statue of the Queen, and probably sooner rather than later. For years, it's been rumoured that the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is held in reserve for such a memorial. Another contender might be Green Park, scene of many of the floral tributes in the days following Elizabeth's death (it's also blessed with fewer memorials than the other Royal Parks).

The fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square
The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square was, by coincidence, empty at the time of Her Majesty's death. It is usually topped with sculptural art

Some would argue that she deserves something truly grand, like the Victoria memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. Only time will tell. For now, you can see statues of Elizabeth close to London in both Windsor and Gravesend.

Other changes

The Queen's portrait for a stamp, in beige material, facing left
Model for the original portrait of the Queen on British stamps, on show at the Postal Museum

This article has considered the physical changes we'll see on London's streets. As you'll already be aware, the contents of our pockets will also change. Coins, notes and stamps will eventually bear the countenance of Charles III, once an official portrait has been signed off. Also, new passports will be framed in the legalese of HIS Britannic Majesty (though your old one referring to Her Britannic Majesty is still valid).

And, of course, the National Anthem has already changed to God Save the King. A full one-sixth of the words to the first verse have now changed thanks to Queen -> King and the accompanying pronoun switch.

All images by Matt Brown unless otherwise stated.