New Book Details the Exact Moment King Charles Found Out His Mother, Queen Elizabeth, Had Died

With just two words, Charles’ world completely changed.

Prince Charles kisses the hand of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. Sang Tan / WPA Pool for Getty Images
(Image credit: Sang Tan / WPA Pool for Getty Images)

A new book is giving deeper insight into September 8, 2022—the day Queen Elizabeth died at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland—specifically from King Charles’ perspective. Charles was driving a Land Rover to Balmoral (Her late Majesty’s home in Scotland) from Birkhall (Charles’ home in Scotland) alongside Queen Camilla and their team when he was told to pull over, and then told that his mother had died—but not in so many words.

King Charles

(Image credit: Getty)

Charles was picking mushrooms on the grounds of his Birkhall estate when he was summoned to Balmoral. Charles was driving the Land Rover and was racing to make it to the Queen’s bedside as she drew her last breath—but he wasn’t able to make it in time, Robert Hardman writes in his new biography The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy (per The Mirror).

The late Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young’s first duty was to tell Charles before anyone else could. “There was no question of waiting for the car to pull up at Balmoral,” Hardman writes. A senior official told Hardman for the book “Imagine if there had been some accident or a hold up along the way. It was essential that the new king was told before anyone else.”

Sir Edward called the Balmoral switchboard, which worked its way through a list of phone numbers—“though the signal was patchy in rural Aberdeenshire, and staff would have had their phones on silent while attending to the members of the Firm,” The Mirror reports. “However, one at Charles’ party felt their phone vibrating and recognized the number.”

The new King was asked to pull over and was told Sir Edward was on the phone. “The new monarch knew exactly what was coming next,” Hardman writes in an excerpt published by The Daily Mail. “He had just turned off the B976 onto the back drive of the estate when, at the age of 73, he was addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ for the first time. No further explanation was needed.”

In response Charles replied, softly, “We’re nearly there.” Camilla, now Queen, and others in the car voiced their condolences. The King put the 4x4 back in gear and drove on. Moments later, he was greeted by his sister, Princess Anne, at Balmoral. Anne and Queen Elizabeth’s confidante Angela Kelly alternated at her bedside at the end; Charles wasn’t present because it was thought that the Queen had days, not merely hours, left to live.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth

(Image credit: Getty)

Later, Queen Elizabeth’s footman took a locked box of paperwork from next to her deathbed; it was found to contain two sealed letters—one to King Charles and one to Sir Edward. The contents of these letters are unlikely to ever be made public, “but do highlight her devotion to her role and that she was well aware she was close to the end,” The Mirror writes. The box also contained her final piece of paperwork and last royal order—her choice of candidates for the prestigious Order of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious service” across the Commonwealth.

The Making of a King is out January 18. 

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.