Tributes to Her Majesty The Queen flooded in from across the legal profession yesterday after her death at the age of 96.
The Crown Office also advised that the title QC changed to KC with immediate effect. The change was automatic so there are no new Letters Patent.
The accession of King Charles III means the Queen’s Bench Division being renamed as well as the names of judicial review cases. The ‘R v Smith’ in criminal prosecutions will stand for Rex, rather than Regina.
Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce, said: “On this sad occasion we share in the grief of the nation at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the solicitor profession, I would also like to offer our condolences to the Royal Family.
“As the holder of a Royal Charter, the society has been very grateful to the Queen for her role in public life, as a defender of the constitution and source of stability in an era of great change. As our longest serving monarch we’re thankful for the way she dedicated her life to the service of this country.”
Bar Council chair Mark Fenhalls KC said: “The officers, members and staff of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales join with colleagues across the legal professions in mourning the loss of our country’s most devoted public servant.
“Throughout a long, loyal, and steadfast reign, Queen Elizabeth II embodied the symbolic role of the figure in whose name justice is carried out with great integrity.
“I have written to offer our deep and sincere condolences to His Majesty The King. Our thoughts are with the Royal Family at this time.”
In 2011, the Queen in Council approved CILEX’s application for a Royal Charter. CILEX chair Professor Chris Bones said: “We are deeply saddened on the news of the death of Her Majesty the Queen. On the behalf of CILEX, we send our deepest sympathies to the Royal Family.”
There will be two minutes silence held in the courts today. Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, said: “Today is a day of great sadness for all judicial office holders in England & Wales, across the United Kingdom and around the Commonwealth. Her Majesty’s service to this country and the Commonwealth throughout the seven decades of her reign has been unparalleled.”
He added that guidance would follow on any changes to court and tribunal business during the period of national mourning.
The BBC’s Dominic Casciani reported from the Old Bailey this morning on the first case to be called into court in the name of the King.
He tweeted: “The court usher said: ‘Silence be upstanding in court. All persons who have anything to do before My Lords and Ladies, the King’s Justices at the Central Criminal Court, draw near and give your attendance. God save the King.’”
Many other associations, law firms, chambers and individual lawyers took to social media to pay tribute.
The City of London Law Society said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her loss will be felt around the world. We convey our heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family at this difficult time.”
The Family Law Bar Association sent “its respect and admiration to the Royal Family on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our thoughts are with her family who today say goodbye to their beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother”.
Kirsty Brimelow KC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “The Criminal Bar Association joins with legal professions across the Commonwealth in mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
“We pay tribute to the Queen’s steadfast and true public service and offer our deep condolences to His Majesty the King and the Royal Family. We mark with sorrow and dedication to justice the change of Queen’s Counsel to King’s Counsel.”
John Machell KC of Serle Court tweeted: “Just amended my email footer from QC to KC. A mundane and unimportant task in itself, but poignant and affecting for me personally.”
James Corbett of Trinity Chambers wrote: “Automatically becoming a KC after being a QC for 23 years ought not to be surprising or affecting. But it is. It may only be a label but doesn’t feel like it. I was born just after the accession. Laying aside 70 years takes adjusting.”
Mel Clarke, who tweets as @Bramptonmel, recounted a personal experience: “When HM Queen came to open the Rolls Building, she was ushered into a room in which were waiting all the judges. She looked at the ermine-clad serried ranks of Chancery judges, smiled, and said crisply ‘Where are the women?’
“A look of panic crossed multiple faces, until someone saw three female chancery-specialist district judges in a dark corner. ‘There they are!’ he shouted. So the Queen went to talk to them. What a woman.”
According to a blog in 2017 by the late Court of Appeal judge Sir Henry Brooke, when the court goes into mourning, ‘mourning bands’ are worn. “These are the normal bands which are folded over on the edge and in the centre to make pleats. This gives them a dark look.”
Further, the cuffs of the waistcoat are covered with a white material “so you can use your sleeve to dry your eyes. These coverings are known as ‘weepers’”.
However, Lord Burnett has said that court mourning dress may be worn, but is not expected. There was no immediate requirement to change nomenclature in documents either.
The Royal Family website said that the concept of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’ grew in importance in late Anglo-Saxon times, as it helped to ensure that a single system of justice prevailed over competing local, civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
In time, the Royal courts became the centre of the administration of justice in both civil and criminal cases, and Sovereigns themselves took an active part in their own courts, with the king sometimes presiding over the proceedings.
By the 15th century, the central courts had settled at Westminster, and the Courts of Justice remained housed at Westminster Hall (built in 1097 and renovated in 1394) until 1882.
As Parliament’s legislative role grew and day-to-day power came to be exercised by ministers, so the Sovereign’s role in actually administering justice declined.
“The Bill of Rights (1689) (in Scotland, the Claim of Right) confirmed the basic constitutional principle that the Sovereign no longer had any right to administer justice.
“The Sovereign’s responsibilities regarding the judiciary also waned. Under the Act of Settlement (1701), judges were to hold office during good behaviour rather than by the Sovereign’s will.
“Judges could be removed by the Sovereign on the advice of ministers, either following an address presented by both Houses of Parliament or without an address in cases of official misconduct or conviction of a serious offence.
“The Act therefore established the judicial independence which exists today.”