As both the oldest and longest-living current head of state, Queen Elizabeth II has seen a lot. World War II. The Troubles. Decolonization. Brexit. Megxit. A pandemic. Mary Berry leaving The Great British Bake Off. 2022 will mark the queen’s 96th birthday as well as 70 years on the throne. While most people her age would probably plan themselves a nice retirement party, Elizabeth is still reigning. Or is she?
On certain corners of the internet, Elizabeth is the subject of a conspiracy theory: that the monarch secretly died and the palace is covering it up. This raises a series of questions, such as “Why would they do that?” and “How would that even work?” and “Huh???” I’ll attempt to provide answers below.
So is the Queen of England dead or what?
Officially, no. The palace is planning a giant party for her 70th anniversary of being queen. This anniversary is called the Platinum Jubilee, and Queen Elizabeth will be the first British monarch to ever celebrate one, which of course calls for a special pudding. No, I’m not joking: A “Platinum Pudding Competition” was launched on Jan. 10 to find a pudding that is appropriately festive. The winner of the pudding competition will be invited to the Jubilee celebration.
If the queen is planning to eat pudding this year, why are people saying she’s already dead?
The queen has scaled back her public appearances since being hospitalized in October and suffering a back sprain. Despite her age, her hospitalization and her hiatus from public appearances came as a bit of a surprise since she’s only been hospitalized twice in nearly 20 years. MSN UK quoted royal experts as saying the queen had entered a “new phase” (to the delight of meme artisans) and would likely not be seen again until February.
That’s not exactly convincing evidence.
You’re not wrong! But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that conspiracy theories thrive on even meager evidence and—most importantly—this one is mostly just a joke, as you can see from the posts below on Twitter …
… and TikTok …
… and the abandoned clown factory that is Tumblr:
You guys have got to stop joking about the Queen dying, the royal necromancer is already in enough trouble after what happened to Philip
Hey, like, what if the queen never comes back? What if they never announce her death either? What if everyone just pretends she’s still alive forever? What then?
So, no one actually thinks she’s dead?
I wouldn’t go that far. A few enterprising investigators have gone so far as to suggest that the queen’s prerecorded Christmas message this year is in fact a deepfake—artificial intelligence–assisted replacement of one person’s face with another in videos. And others have gone down the rabbit hole:
Then there’s this reminder from dappercyborg:
remember the royal doctor literally killed the queens grandfather by injecting him with morphine and cocaine so that his death would be reported in the morning paper instead for the “less appropriate evening journals.”
Them hiding her death till after Christmas is entirely in character and in keeping with past events
Wait, is that last one true?
According to the royal doctor’s memoirs, he sped up George’s death with the full approval of the royal family and timed it to make the morning papers. So it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the royal family might keep such a wild secret.
OK, but why on earth would the palace want to hide the queen’s death in the first place?
One theory is that they didn’t want to announce her death over the holidays. Another, as summarized by this Tumblr post, is that the monarchy wants to avoid her rule being 69 years, which is not a nice round number like 70 years and would probably lead to a whole lot of people commenting “nice” under her obituaries.
Is it me, or does this all sound familiar?
It’s not just you! At least once a year, there’s a rumor that the queen of England has died. Just last year when the queen was hospitalized, speculators suggested that the queen was in fact dead. And then there was 2019, when royal experts had to step in to assure concerned Twitter denizens that the queen was, in fact, still alive and well. And of course, there was 2018, when a random Redditor suggested the queen would kick the bucket the following January. (Spoiler alert: She lived.) And then …
OK, yes, I get it—she’s old and this happens a lot. But in an age of vaccine misinformation, QAnon cultists, and fake news, how exactly should we feel about people claiming there’s a royal cover-up going on—even if they’re only joking?
Ironic conspiracy theories are, at this point, just a part of the modern internet lexicon. Getting rid of them is almost as impossible as eradicating the dangerously earnest ones. All we can really ask is that internet denizens and the reporters covering them learn how to discern between the relatively harmless conspiracy theories and the democracy-threatening ones. And as the recent dust-up around TikTok’s Couch Guy demonstrates, even allegedly innocent conspiracy theories can exact a very human toll. The queen of England, with millions of dollars and The Firm at her disposal, can suffer a few TikToks and tweets. Whether the internet’s next target can remains to be seen.