Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, is not going to live forever.
Since ascending to the throne in 1952, the monarch has seen 13 prime ministers serve Britain and lived through another 13 US presidents. She's now 92. At some point — not for many years yet, we hope — Queen Elizabeth II's reign will come to an end.
But what happens then?
For at least 12 days — between her passing, the funeral and beyond — Britain will grind to a halt. The chaos will cost the UK economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks are likely to close. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to gross domestic product of £1.2 billion to £6 billion ($1.6 billion to $7.9 billion), to say nothing of organisational costs.
But to focus on the financial disruption doesn't begin to describe the sheer magnitude of the queen's death. It will be an event unlike anything Britain has seen since the end of World War II.
There will be trivial disruptions — the BBC will cancel all comedy shows, for example — and jarring cultural changes. Prince Charles may change his name, and the words of the national anthem will be changed too. The British Commonwealth might even unravel completely.
The deaths of Princess Diana and the queen mother both brought on waves of public mourning and hysteria. But that of Queen Elizabeth II, due to her longevity and fundamental place atop British society, will be on a whole new level.