In recent years, the internet has treated Queen Elizabeth II a bit like Schrödinger’s cat: Every time she disappears from the public eye, she’s somehow both alive and dead (at least, depending on whom you ask). This week, rumors of the queen’s demise are coming from a most unlikely place: a celebrity news blog confidently claiming that the monarch has died—with some very dubious sourcing. Allow us to explain.
Did Queen Elizabeth die?
Buckingham Palace announced on Sunday that the queen had tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing mild, coldlike symptoms. More recently, the queen, who is 95, canceled even her virtual appointments, though she continues to carry out “light duties.” But no, the palace has not announced her death.
What do “light duties” mean for a queen?
According to the BBC: “reading documents from UK government ministers and Commonwealth representatives sent to her every day, approving and signing them where necessary.” And probably, like, snuggling with her corgis? IDK, that’s what I would do.
If she is alive and carrying out light duties, why do I keep seeing people talking about whether the queen is dead?
Conspiracy theories about the queen dying—and the palace supposedly covering up her death—make the rounds online every so often, though they’re usually just jokes. However, this latest news cycle was sparked by an apparently sincere, EXCLUSIVE post from Hollywood Unlocked, which reported Tuesday that according to “sources close to the Royal Kingdom,” the queen had been found dead. The byline on the post is “DefaultUser.”
“Sources close to the Royal Kingdom?” What … is the Royal Kingdom?
“Found dead”? Like in an alleyway or something?
“DefaultUser?” Could he be French? De-fow Oo-say?
What even is Hollywood Unlocked?
A celebrity news and gossip site founded by self-described “entrepreneur, author, and activist” Jason Lee, whose initial claims to fame were his appearances on Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood and Wild ’n Out. Besides breaking the quote-unquote “news” of Elizabeth’s death, Hollywood Unlocked’s other posts are pretty standard news aggregation: The top story as of this writing is a news post about a kid whose mom paid him to stay off social media for six years, which has also been covered by other outlets. The Hollywood Unlocked Instagram account, meanwhile, has 3 million followers; there’s also a YouTube channel, where Lee interviews the likes of Kanye West and discusses the latest celeb news with his co-hosts.
Have any of the royals called out Hollywood Unlocked yet? I mean, how do we know he’s wrong?
Not a peep from Elizabeth or her clan yet—but one would imagine that, should the queen have indeed died, we’d have heard about it from them first instead of Hollywood Unlocked, no?
That said: Despite zero confirmation from the palace, Lee is standing by the blog’s story that the queen has died.
Curiously, a Twitter account going by the name “Hollywood Unlocked” tweeted, then deleted, an apology blaming the post announcing the queen’s death on an intern; Lee has since said that the Twitter account is fake and reaffirmed his faith in his anonymous sources. In the meantime, Twitter has been having the time of its life cracking jokes about this whole ridiculous situation.
Hm, I dunno, if I wanted to get people talking about my blog, and the queen was sick, I might publish an anonymously sourced post about how the queen had secretly died and then stand by the story—knowing there’s a chance, given the queen’s age and illness, that I might just be proved right in the next few days by sheer luck. (And if not, I can always pretend it’s a cover-up!) And then I might sit back and watch as a bunch of other publications picked up the story, and some Slate writer might write a whole explainer about it because her editors asked her to, giving me and my site a whole lot of free publicity.
[takes a drag on a cigarette] Hey, it’s a living.
Update, Feb. 25, 3:15 p.m.: Hollywood Unlocked published an explanation on Friday titled “Fact Check: 10 Reasons We Believed Queen Elizabeth Was Dead.” “We can’t stress enough that we’d never intentionally cause unnecessary pain or grief to the monarchy (or the public at large) simply for ‘clickbait’ and hope we’ve outlined all the compelling information that led to our original post,” columnist Blue Telusma wrote.
The explanation also includes a quote from Lee: “Although I’ve never been wrong when breaking a story because this involves The Queen this is one time I would want to be […] and based on Wednesday’s report from the Palace, I can say my sources got this wrong and I sincerely apologize to The Queen and the Royal Family.”