Queen Elizabeth II’s death after 70 years on the throne was announced first on Twitter – from the Royal Family’s own account.
A tweet stating the long-serving monarch had “died peacefully at Balmoral” was posted by @RoyalFamily at 6.30 p.m. local time, two minutes ahead of the BBC’s own announcement on the platform.
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.
The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/VfxpXro22W
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
That Twitter was chosen as the initial vector for the news shows how much the family’s approach to communication has morphed, especially in the latter years of the Queen’s reign. Known for their use of pomp and ceremony to reinforce the power of the monarchy, the Windsors have become savvy users of social media, with King Charles III and his wife Camilla, who is expected to take on the title of Queen Consort, regulars on Twitter and Facebook.
The tweet came alongside a raft of more traditional protocols surrounding the monarch’s death, plans for which have been a closely guarded secret for decades. A Guardian report in 2017 said news of the Queen’s death would first be relayed to the UK prime minister via the coded message “London Bridge is down,” before an announcement made via a “newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously.”
Retweeted more than 650,000 times and garnering more than 2 million “likes,” the post was just the first step in a carefully choreographed 10-day mourning period that will include the suspension of parliament, a public holiday and a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.
How the world found out Queen Elizabeth had died
(All timings in UK local time)
12:32 p.m. Statement issued by Buckingham Palace to media on concerns about health of the Queen
12:34 p.m. Royal Family Twitter account posts statement on the Queen being put under medical supervision due to health concerns
12:37 p.m. UK Prime Minister Liz Truss tweets that her thoughts are with the Queen and her family
12:55 – 56 p.m. BBC News reports that members of the Queen’s family including Prince Charles and Prince William are traveling to Balmoral
4:30 p.m. UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is informed of the Queen’s death
6:30 p.m. Royal Family Twitter account publicly announces the Queen has “died peacefully”
6:31 p.m. Press Association posts Buckingham Palace’s statement on Twitter
6:32 p.m. BBC News announces on Twitter the death of the Queen
7:04 p.m. King Charles III makes statement on his mother’s death via the Royal Family Twitter account