When the world’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, dies, it will be communicated with four simple words: “London Bridge is down.”
The phrase refers to “Operation London Bridge,” Britain’s not-so-secret plan for how to proceed in the event of the monarch’s passing. Although the plan itself has been public knowledge for years, the renewed focus on the Queen’s deteriorating health puts the details of those plans, much of which was leaked to PoliticoIncluding the plans for next year and how they could change.
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Here’s what is known about it.
What will the rest of the world do if the monarch dies?
On the day of the Queen’s death, known simply as D-Day, the news will be delivered to the British Prime Minister by the Queen’s private secretary, who will also inform the cabinet secretary (the country’s highest civil servant) and the monarchy’s formal body of advisers, known as the Privy Council. It will be sent to leaders from the 50+ countries that make up the British Commonwealth. Meanwhile, a newsflash will be sent to the U.K.’s Press Association, the country’s national news agency, as well as the rest of the world’s media. The BBC will activate a Cold-War-era alarm, known as Radio Alert Transmission System (or RATS). TV anchors will wear black. The world’s news outlets will publish pre-prepared obituaries in Britain as well.
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Perhaps the most formal notice will come from Buckingham Palace itself, where the “Official Notification” of the Queen’s death will be pinned to the palace gates. The Royal Family’s website, which will be set against a black background, will publish a statement confirming the death.
How do you react to the announcement?
Regular government business will come to an abrupt halt with the U.K. Parliament and its devolved legislatures (Northern Ireland, Scotland, & Wales) being adjourned. The flags of the British government will be flying at half-mast inside Whitehall in London. A national moment of silence and the Prime Minister’s statement will be made. A service of remembrance is expected to take place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers in attendance.
On the same day, the plan for the ascension of Prince Charles to the throne—dubbed Operation Spring Tide—will be underway. At 6 p.m., Prince Charles will have an audience with the Prime Minister. He will then broadcast his first broadcast to all of Britain.
When will the funeral occur?
The funeral is expected to take place 10 days after the Queen’s death. The Queen will lie in repose at Balmoral Estate, Scotland. If that happens, her coffin is transported to London by Royal Train (Operation UNICORN), or by air (Operation OVERSTUDY). It will be received there by the Prime Minister, as well as other government leaders.
Four days after the Queen’s death, there will be a procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, where her coffin will lie in state before the funeral. The Queen will be remembered by the people who visit her grave.
Westminster Abbey will hold the state funeral. This will be a Day of National Mourning. There will be a period of two minutes of silence across the nation starting at 12 noon. Following the funeral, Queen Elizabeth will be buried in Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip and her father King George VI.
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Is Prince Charles automatically made King?
As the heir apparent, Prince Charles will automatically inherit the throne, as well as all the rights and responsibilities that come with it, at the time of his mother’s death. At 11 a.m. local time on the day after the Queen’s death, the Accession Council will be convened to formally proclaim Charles the new sovereign. Whether he will be “King Charles III,” however, is still unclear. Charles Philip Arthur George is the full name of the new monarch. He could prefer to go by another name. His wife, Camilla, will adopt the title Queen Consort in accordance with his mother’s wishes.
After his ascension Prince Charles will be meeting with the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and then embark on a tour through the U.K. that begins in Scotland.
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