The death of the Queen (or King) is called the “demise of the Crown”. Historically, the demise of the Crown had significant legal effects:

  • Parliament was dissolved, and the next King or Queen would decide when to call the next Parliament.
  • Many senior public officials lost their jobs, because they were appointed by the Queen or King and the next Queen or King would make new appointments.
  • All cases before the Royal Courts were ended, and had to be restarted.

Members of the New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand Police have a special relationship with the Queen. Members of the New Zealand Defence Force make an oath of allegiance to the Queen, promising to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to our Sovereign Lady the Queen, her heirs and successors”. Members of the Police make a similar oath, promising to “faithfully and diligently serve Her Majesty, Queen of New Zealand, her heirs and successors”. This oath is to the Crown, and it carried over to King Charles III.

From the 16th century, changes started to be made to what happened as the result of the demise of the Crown. Parliament could continue, and later on cases before the Courts could continue and happily for senior public servants, they would not automatically lose their jobs.

It is clear that despite these historical implications , in modern times the demise of the Crown has no effect in law for any purpose. Section 5 of the Constitution Act 1986 states:

However, there are some changes:

  • Ships in the Royal New Zealand Navy will be known as “His Majesty’s New Zealand Ship”.
  • Lawyers who were appointed as Queen’s Counsel are now known as King’s Counsel.
  • There are 330 New Zealand laws with the word “Queen” in them. Many may be amended over time, although the reference to Queen or King has no legal effect.
  • Although the Head of Commonwealth role is not hereditary, at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, it was agreed that Charles would be the next head after the Queens death.
  • New Zealand has two national anthems – one being God Save the Queen. The lyrics will need to be changed, or possibly the anthem will be changed to another song.

There are also things that are unknown at the time of writing:

  • It is not known whether the New Zealand Parliament will swear allegiance to King Charles III, as the United Kingdom will. This may be controversial, as some MPs who were reluctant to swear allegience to the Queen may be even more reluctant to do so to King Charles III.
  • Although it is unlikely that New Zealand will become a republic anytime soon, it is possible that Australia will move towards becoming a republic.

*Article updated to reflect the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting decision that the Queen would be replaced by Charles upon her death.