British Royal Family Topical Guide

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch and a rock of stability across much of a turbulent century, died Sept. 8 at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland.

A link to the almost-vanished generation that fought World War II, she was the only monarch most Britons have ever known, and her name defines an age: the modern Elizabethan Era.

With the death of the queen, her son Charles automatically becomes monarch, even though the coronation might not take place for months. He is now King Charles III.

Elizabeth’s death came a day after she canceled a virtual meeting of her Privy Council when doctors advised her to rest following a full day of events the previous day, when she formally asked Liz Truss to become Britain's prime minister.

To help with coverage, here is a style guide based on the AP Stylebook and common usage in AP stories:

Queen Elizabeth's reign

Elizabeth, then 25, became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, following the death of her father, King George VI. Her formal coronation took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey, but her reign began the moment her father died.

She was Britain's longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach seven decades on the throne before her death at age 96.

The line of succession

Charles automatically became monarch upon Elizabeth’s death, even though the coronation might not take place for months. King Charles III is married to Camilla, who will be known as Queen Consort.

He is followed in the line of succession by:

1. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the eldest son of Charles and the late Princess Diana. The next three places are held by William's children, in order of their birth:

  • 2. Prince George of Cambridge, born in July 2013.
  • 3. Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, born in May 2015.
  • 4. Prince Louis of Cambridge, born in April 2018.

5. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, the younger son of Charles and Diana. The next two places are held by Harry's children, in order of their birth:

  • 6. Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, born in May 2019.
  • 7. Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor, born in June 2021

8. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and her late husband, Prince Philip.

9. Princess Beatrice, elder daughter of Andrew and his former wife, Sarah Ferguson. Beatrice is married to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. She is followed in the line of succession by her daughter:

  • 10. Sienna Mapelli Mozzi

11: Princess Eugenie, the younger daughter of Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Eugenie is married to Jack Brooksbank. She is followed in the line of succession by her son:

  • 12. August Brooksbank

13. Prince Edward, the queen and Philip’s youngest child. He is followed by his children:

  • 14. James, Viscount Severn, the younger child of Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
  • 15. Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, Edward and Sophie’s daughter.

Senior Royals

Queen Elizabeth II: The longest-reigning monarch in British history, she was also head of the Commonwealth and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth II on first reference, Elizabeth or the queen on subsequent references.

Prince Philip: The queen's late husband, who died at the age of 99 on April 9, 2021. They married in 1947. On first reference: Prince Philip. On second reference, Philip is acceptable. Stories may note that he also was known as the Duke of Edinburgh.

King Charles III: Before becoming monarch, then-Prince Charles was also known as the Prince of Wales. He is 73. His first wife was the late Princess Diana, mother of Princes William and Harry.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall: Charles' second wife. They married in 2005 at Windsor Guildhall (not on the castle grounds). She is 74 and will be known as Queen Consort.

Prince William: The elder son of Charles and Diana. William, 39, is now first in line of succession to the throne. He is also known as the Duke of Cambridge. William served in the military and worked as a helicopter rescue pilot before concentrating full time on his royal duties.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: The former Kate Middleton is William's wife. They have three children: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. In stories, AP often refers to Prince William and his wife, Kate. She is 40.

Prince Harry: Harry is the younger son of Charles and Diana. He served in the military for a decade before taking up royal duties. He is 37 and is also known as the Duke of Sussex.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex: The former American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry at Windsor Castle in 2018. In 2020 the couple quit as working senior royals and moved to the United States, where they have a charitable foundation. Meghan is 40. The couple have two children, Archie and Lilibet.

Additional style points

royal family, royals

The monarch heads Britain's royal family. The term royals is acceptable on any reference. The royal household is a broader term encompassing the family along with palace officials and staff.

Balmoral Castle

The queen's summer residence in Scotland.

Buckingham Palace

The official residence of British monarchs. It is in central London. On second reference: the palace. Queen Elizabeth II used the palace for official duties, but she often preferred to spend time at Windsor Castle, which gave her more privacy, or her other residences. Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of the sovereign since 1837. It has 775 rooms and extensive gardens.


Acceptable on all references to the British Broadcasting Corp.

the Commonwealth

A grouping of 53 independent nations formerly known as the British Commonwealth. Most are former colonies of the British Empire. The queen was head of the Commonwealth, and she was still head of state of the UK and 14 member nations, known as Commonwealth Realms. Commonwealth leaders have agreed that Charles should head the Commonwealth after his mother’s death.

the United Kingdom

The nation consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The abbreviation U.K. is acceptable as a noun or adjective. Use UK (no periods) in headlines.

the national flag

The national flag is called the Union Jack or the Union Flag. Some maintain the term Union Jack should only be used when the flag is on a naval vessel.


References to members of the nobility in nations that have a system of rank present special problems because nobles frequently are known by their titles rather than their given or family names. Their titles, in effect, become their names. Generally follow a person's preference, unless the person is widely known in another way.

The guidelines below relate to Britain's nobility. Adapt them as appropriate to members of nobility in other nations.

Orders of rank among British nobility begin with the royal family. The term royalty is reserved for the families of living and deceased sovereigns.

Next, in descending order, are dukes, marquesses or marquises, earls, viscounts and barons. There are also life peers who are appointed to the House of Lords and hold their titles only for their lifetimes. On first reference to a life peer, use the person's ordinary name, e.g., Margaret Thatcher or Jeffrey Archer. Elsewhere, if relevant, explain that the person has been appointed to the House of Lords.

Occasionally the sovereign raises an individual to the nobility and makes the title inheritable by the person's heirs, but the practice is rare. Sovereigns also confer honorary titles, which do not make an individual a member of the nobility. The principal designations are baronet and knight.

In general, the guidelines in titles apply. However, honorary titles and titles of nobility are capitalized when they serve as an alternate name such as the Prince of Wales.

Some guidelines and examples:

ROYALTY: Capitalize king, queen, prince and princess when they are used directly before one or more names; lowercase when they stand alone.

Queen Elizabeth II. Also: the queen or Elizabeth on second reference. Capitalize a longer form of the sovereign's title when its use is appropriate or in a quote: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth; His Majesty King Charles III.

Use Prince or Princess before the names of a sovereign's children: Princess Anne, Prince Charles.

In references to the late queen's husband the first reference should be Prince Philip. On second reference: Philip.

The male heir to the throne normally is designated Prince of Wales, and the title becomes an alternate name. Capitalize when used: The queen invested her eldest son as Prince of Wales.

DUKE: The full title — Duke of York, for example — is an alternate name, capitalized in all uses. Lowercase duke when it stands alone.

The wife of a duke is a duchess: the Duchess of Kent, the duchess, but never Duchess Katherine or Lady Katherine.

A duke normally also has a lesser title. It is commonly used for his eldest son if he has one. Use the courtesy titles Lord or Lady before the first names of a duke or earl's children. On second reference, the children's given name would be used alone.

MARQUESS, MARQUIS, EARL, VISCOUNT, BARON: The full titles serve as alternate names and should be capitalized. In general, use the name the person goes by. Use Lady before the name of a woman married to a man who holds one of these titles, and use Lady before the first name of an earl's daughter.

Some examples:

BARONET, KNIGHT: Sir John Smith on first reference and Smith on second. These are very common titles, and rarely are used in news copy. Do not use both an honorary title and a title of military rank or authority, such as prime minister, before a name.

Honorary titles for celebrities need not be used in every case. Dame Maggie Smith is correct, but Maggie Smith is preferred when writing about the actress. Sir Paul McCartney is correct, but Paul McCartney is preferred when writing about the former Beatle.

Accession Rules

The British monarchy's rules state that "a new sovereign succeeds to the throne as soon as his or her predecessor dies."

That means Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son, Prince Charles, became king immediately upon her death.

However, it may be months or even longer before Charles' formal coronation. In Elizabeth's case, her coronation came on June 2, 1953 -- 16 months after her accession on Feb. 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died.

A look at the formalities that take place after Charles accedes to the throne:

— Within 24 hours of a monarch's death, a new sovereign is proclaimed formally as soon as possible at St. James's Palace in London by the "Accession Council." This is made up of officials from the Privy Council, which includes senior Cabinet ministers, judges and leaders of the Church of England, who are summoned to the palace for the meeting.

— Parliament is then recalled for lawmakers to take their oaths of allegiance to the new monarch.

— The new monarch will swear an oath before the Privy Council in St. James's Palace to maintain the Church of Scotland, according to the Act of Union of 1707.

— The proclamation of the new sovereign is then publicly read out at St. James's Palace, as well as in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – the capital cities of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom.

— Charles must declare to Parliament on the first day of its session following the accession, or at the coronation, whichever is first, that he is a faithful Protestant. The oath is mandated by the Accession Declaration Act of 1910.

— He must also take a coronation oath as prescribed by the Coronation Oath Act of 1689, the Act of Settlement of 1701 and the Accession Declaration Act.

— He must be in communion with the Church of England, a flexible rule which allowed King George I and King George II to reign even though they were Lutherans.

Key Milestones in Elizabeth’s Life

— April 21, 1926: Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in Mayfair, London, the first child of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later called the Queen Mother.

— Dec. 10, 1936: Elizabeth becomes heir-apparent to the throne after her uncle King Edward VIII abdicates and her father becomes king.

— Oct. 13, 1940: Elizabeth makes first public speech at age 14 on the BBC Children’s Hour to reassure children who had been separated from their parents during the Blitz.

— 1945: Elizabeth is made a Subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, serving for Britain during World War II.

— Nov. 20, 1947: Elizabeth marries Prince Philip Mountbatten of Greece and Denmark at Westminster Abbey.

— Nov. 14, 1948: Prince Charles is born.

— Aug. 15, 1950: Elizabeth’s second child and only daughter, Anne, the Princess Royal, is born.

— Feb. 6, 1952: Elizabeth becomes queen upon the death of her father George VI.

— June 2, 1953: Crowned in a grand coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey. She sets out on a tour of the Commonwealth, visiting places including Bermuda, Fiji, Tonga, Australia, and Gibraltar.

— Feb. 19, 1960: Elizabeth’s third child, Prince Andrew, is born.

— March 10, 1964: Elizabeth’s fourth child, Prince Edward, is born.

— May 1965: Elizabeth makes a historic visit to West Germany, the first German visit by a British monarch in 52 years.

— 1977: Elizabeth celebrates her Silver Jubilee, which marks 25 years on the throne.

— 1992: Elizabeth has what she describes as an “annus horribilis,” or a “horrible year.” The year sees marriages for three of her four children end. Also that year, a fire damages Windsor Castle. Public outcry over the cost of repairs amid a recession prompts the queen to volunteer to pay income taxes.

— Aug. 31, 1997: Princess Diana dies in a car crash in Paris. Under public pressure to demonstrate her grief, Elizabeth makes an unprecedented television broadcast in tribute to Diana’s memory.

— 2002: Elizabeth marks 50 years of reign with her Golden Jubilee. The year also sees the deaths of Elizabeth’s mother and her sister, Margaret.

— Dec. 20, 2007: Elizabeth becomes the longest-living British monarch, overtaking Victoria.

— May 2011: Elizabeth makes a historic visit to Ireland — the first visit by a British monarch since Irish independence.

— 2012: Elizabeth marks 60 years of her reign with a Diamond Jubilee.

— Sept. 9, 2015: Elizabeth surpasses Queen Victoria and becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.

— June 11, 2016: Britain celebrates Elizabeth’s official 90th birthday with three days of national festivities.

— Feb. 6, 2017: Elizabeth becomes the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee, marking 65 years on the throne.

— March 2020: Elizabeth and Philip move from Buckingham Palace in London to Windsor Castle at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

— April 9, 2021: Prince Philip, Elizabeth’s husband of 73 years, dies at age 99.

— Oct. 20, 2021: Elizabeth spends a night in a London hospital undergoing health tests. She cancels major engagements in subsequent months, on doctors’ orders to only undertake light duties.

— Feb. 6, 2022: Elizabeth becomes first British monarch to reach a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years as sovereign.

— June 2022: Elizabeth makes limited public appearances during a four-day holiday weekend celebrating her Platinum Jubilee.

— Sept. 6, 2022: Elizabeth meets Boris Johnson and Liz Truss at her summer holiday home in Scotland to oversee the handover of power from the outgoing prime minster to his successor. The ceremonies, traditionally held at Buckingham Palace in London, were moved to Balmoral for the first time in the queen’s reign in light of her mobility problems.

— Sept. 8, 2022: Elizabeth dies at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at age 96.

Key Milestones in Charles’ Life

— Nov. 14, 1948 _ Born on the royal estate at Sandringham, first child of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

— Feb. 6, 1952 _ Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II on the death of her father, King George VI.

— July 1, 1969 _ Formally invested as Prince of Wales.

— July 29, 1981 _ Marries Lady Diana Spencer; becomes first royal heir since 1660 to marry an English woman.

— June 21, 1982 _ Birth of first son, William Arthur Philip Louis.

— Sept. 15, 1984 _ Birth of second son, Harry (Henry Charles Albert David).

— June 15, 1992 _ Andrew Morton’s book “Diana: Her True Story” says Charles has had a long-term affair with a married woman, Camilla Parker Bowles.

— Dec. 9, 1992 _ He separates from Princess Diana.

— Aug. 28, 1996 _ Charles and Diana divorce.

— Aug. 31, 1997 _ Diana is killed in Paris automobile accident.

— Feb. 10, 2004 _ Charles announces his engagement to marry Camilla Parker Bowles.

— April 8, 2005 _ He marries Camilla in a civil ceremony; she takes title of Duchess of Cornwall.

— April 29, 2011 _ His son, Prince William, is married to Kate Middleton.

— Dec. 2011 _ Hospitalized for treatment for a blocked coronary artery.

— June 2013 _ Admitted to the hospital for exploratory operation on his abdomen.

— July 22, 2013 _ Becomes grandfather for the first time with the birth of Prince George, William and Kate's oldest child. Two more children — Charlotte and Louis — follow for the couple.

— May 19, 2018 _ His second son, Harry, marries American Meghan Markle.

— April 9, 2021 _ His father, Prince Philip, dies at 99.

— May 10, 2022 _ Charles stands in for Queen Elizabeth II for the first time during the state opening of Parliament, after she had to pull out of the event, citing mobility problems. The delegation of the role, one of the queen's most important duties, was seen by many as the clearest sign that a transition of the monarchy was underway.

— Sept. 8, 2022 _ Becomes king upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

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