Although the monarchy itself is controversial, Queen Elizabeth II proved to be an exceptionally popular head of state, which is part of the reason that her death has led to such an extended period of mourning in the U.K.
The queen's funeral was held on Sept. 19, and with it, that period of official mourning has come to an end. Even as that mourning period ends, though, some questions about the British Royal Family remain.
What does ER mean for the queen?
One of the big questions many outside of the U.K. had about the queen and the mourning around her is what the initials ER mean. There's plenty of branded merchandise in the U.K. that features that abbreviation, and it sometimes has a II in it, so it reads EIIR.
As it turns out, that abbreviation is used as shorthand to refer to the queen and is officially known as a cipher. It actually means Elizabeth Regina.
Elizabeth is obviously the queen's first name, whereas Regina is simply the Latin word for queen. Because Elizabeth was the second of her name, the II was often included. Every royal monarch receives a cipher, which is totally unique to the monarch.
These ciphers typically contain the name of the monarch, as well as their titles and often some element of a crown. They can most often be spotted on official documents, government buildings, and other items that are closely associated with the royal family.
Interestingly, the cipher is not used in Scotland, because the Scots do not recognize the first Queen Elizabeth, who did not rule over Scotland while she was queen.
The royal cipher will change following the queen's death.
In the aftermath of the queen's death, several changes will occur across the U.K. as Elizabeth's eldest son Charles ascends to the throne. One of those changes will be to the royal cipher, which will now read CIIIR to refer to Charles Rex, and to the fact that Charles is the third King Charles in the history of the U.K. Rex is the Latin word for king, which is why it will now replace Regina.
The change has already been confirmed by a subtle pin that Charles was spotted wearing after officially becoming King of England. These kinds of small changes will be constant as Charles assumes the throne and the duties that his mother carried on for 70 years. Hers was the longest reign in the history of the British monarchy, and one that Charles will undoubtedly struggle to live up to.
Many both inside and outside the U.K. continue to struggle over the actual purpose of the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth held the vestiges of her kingdom together, but in the wake of her death, many are wondering whether the monarchy needs to continue to be a part of British life.