The term was coined in English law to signify the immediate transfer (Law French demise, "sending down [the line of succession]", from Latin demiss-[gender ending], the perfect participle of demittere, having the same meaning), of sovereignty and royal prerogatives to a successor of the monarch without interregnum. The word "demise" is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as referring to the death of the sovereign rather than to the transfer of the Crown. This erroneous meaning is undermined by the principle in constitutional law of the continuity of the monarchy, as expressed in the ancient Medieval maxim "the Crown never dies" expressed by Sir William Blackstone.
Upon the Crown's demise, in the United Kingdom, a meeting of the Accession Council is held in London in order to give directions for the proclamation of the late monarch's successor. This meeting is to arrange for the formalities; neither the identity nor the accession to the throne of the next monarch depends on it. The proclamation takes place at St James's Palace, Charing Cross, within the City Boundary at Temple Bar, and the Royal Exchange. In Canada the Privy Council for Canada meets in Ottawa to perform the same functions, as does Australia's Federal Executive Council in Canberra, the Executive Council of New Zealand in Wellington and equivalent bodies in the remaining Realms as their shared Monarch holds each of the Crown separately from the others in a personal union.
At the first meeting of British parliament under a new monarch there is no speech from the throne. All members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords take an oath of allegiance to the new sovereign. The House votes an Address to the Crown in response to the official notification of the previous monarch's demise, expressing condolences upon the death of the previous monarch and pledging loyalty to his or her successor. The Succession to the Crown Act 1707 provides that in the event of the demise of the Crown, Parliament, if adjourned or prorogued, must meet as soon as possible and if sitting must immediately proceed to act without any summons in the usual form. In the UK, under the Representation of the People Act 1985, if the demise of the Crown occurs during a general election, the vote is postponed by fourteen days.
In Canada, upon the demise of the Crown, the Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada states the prime minister is responsible for convening the Parliament, tabling a resolution of loyalty and condolence from the Parliament to the next monarch of Canada, and arranging for the motion to be seconded by the leader of the Official Opposition. The prime minister will then move to adjourn Parliament.
The coronation of the new monarch usually occurs within eighteen months, but is not necessary to secure the succession.
Historically, the demise of the Crown resulted in the immediate dissolution of Parliament. The practice of dissolving the parliament upon the demise of the Crown was ended in the Parliament of the Province of Canada in 1843, and later re-affirmed with the Parliament of Canada through new legislation in 1867. The practice was also discontinued with the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the same year, with the passage of the Reform Act 1867.
All civil service and Crown offices also, traditionally, became vacant upon the demise of the Crown. As all staff were employees of the monarch, their employment would end upon the death of the monarch thus all civil servants would have to be rehired and swear out oaths to the new king or queen. The Demise of the Crown Act 1901 in the UK, and similar legislation in other Commonwealth realms, now makes this process unnecessary - they are all employees of the Crown, rather than any particular sovereign. The demise of the Crown also brought all legal proceedings to an end, until this rule was abolished by the Demise of the Crown Act 1702.
Similar terms are also used in East Asian civilizations, mostly due to Chinese cultural influence:
In ancient China, (jiàb?ng, "mounting the collapse") or (yànjià) were used to refer to the passing of the emperor of China, the empress, or the empress dowager. (b?nti?n) was also used as a euphemism, to show that the emperor has become a guest in Heaven.
The Book of Rites mentioned that different words were also used in feudal times when referring to the deaths of people, by their respective social classes: (h?ng) was used for feudal vassals and higher officials, (zú) for the king's adviser, (bùlù) for officials, and (s?) for commoners.
In Japan, "" (h?gyo, "the emperor has collapsed") is used as a respectful term to refer to the passing of the emperor. It also had an additional meaning, "to be hidden": as the emperor of Japan was considered as a descendant of the solar goddess Amaterasu, his passing was also interpreted as "the sun has been hidden behind the clouds".
Other terms similar to those used in the Book of Rites are also used in Japan, in the event of a royal's passing. "" (k?gyo) is used for the passing of the empress, "" (k?kyo) is used for the passing of the crown prince or a third-rank member of the imperial household, and "" (sokkyo, shukkyo) is used for fourth-rank or fifth-rank members of the imperial household.
In Thailand, "" (sà-w?n-kót) is used in the Thai language to refer a high-ranking royal person like the king and the crown prince. The term was derived from the Sanskrit language term "svargagata" (), which means "has gone to Heaven".