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Operation London Bridge: The plan for after Queen Elizabeth’s death

Operation London Bridge: The plan for after Queen Elizabeth's death
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It’s not every day that a serving British monarch dies. There must be a plan. And so, with the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96 on Thursday, the long-awaited “Operation London Bridge” came into force.

Named after a former London landmark that “fell off” forever, Operation London Bridge was the code word attributed to a formally choreographed sequence of events that would take place after the British monarch’s death.

The not-so-secret plan was never officially released, although versions of it have been leaked numerous times over the years. It is intended not only to ensure that the news of the Queen’s death is properly conveyed and her memory honored, but also to ensure the continuation of the royal throne as British Head of State.

According to an account of the procedure published by the Guardian following an investigation in 2017the news of the Queen’s death would be announced privately by the Queen’s private secretary with a scrambled phrase:

“London Bridge is down.”

According to reports from the plan, the day of death is known as “D-Day”.

Following the expected procedure, upon the death of the British monarch, his or her successor takes over immediately. This means that after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, her son Prince Charles automatically became monarch – and in his case, he became King Charles III.

For the BBC, a state-funded broadcaster, the process is complicated. The news is expected to be broken in a cautious, somber manner, with the hosts wearing black to acknowledge the importance of what happened. A national emergency alarm is sounded in the offices and is rarely used.

Veteran host Jeremy Paxman wrote that in the 1970s and 1980s, journalists were expected to come over a weekend every six months to go through the proceedings for Elizabeth’s death. “Long sets of guidelines were produced and laminated in plastic,” Paxman wrote in his book “he king.”

But some things have changed. News of the Queen’s death was first shared on a Twitter account on Thursday belonging to the royal family. However, it was widely expected and the BBC and other broadcasters were already in the black.

Flags were lowered to half-mast across the country and obituaries were posted both at Buckingham Palace and on the royal website.

The next few days are considered D-Day+1, D-Day+2, etc leaked documents released by Politico last year. Exactly how these days will unfold is not yet clear, but we do have a rough outline from centuries of monarchical practice.

An “accession council” is expected to meet on Friday. It usually meets within 24 hours of the monarch’s death, usually at St James’s Palace, where many important events in royal history took place. It hosts officials and some royals for King Charles’ accession process.

The Council formally declares the monarch’s death and accession to the throne, according to the Privy Council, a formal advisory body to the monarch. The Accession Council is chaired by the Lord President of the Privy Council – Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative MP and leader of the House of Commons.

Later, though not always on the same day, the new sovereign or head of state will hold his first session with secret advisers. The monarch will then take an oath of office, which every monarch has sworn since George I in 1714. Signed copies of the oath are then sent to the official recorders.

The proclamation of the monarch’s accession to the throne was later broadcast from the balcony above the Friary Court in St James’s Palace, accompanied by a gun salute. After the reading of the proclamation on Charles’ accession to the throne, the national anthem with the words “God save the King” is played for the first time since 1952.

The Queen’s body is due to be transported to Buckingham Palace on Saturday. As she died at Balmoral in Scotland, her family’s summer retreat, it is not yet clear whether the coffin will be transported by royal train or plane.

When the Queen’s body returns to Buckingham Palace, a small number of senior government ministers, including the Prime Minister, will attend a reception. Her body is expected to remain at that palace until Tuesday, when it will be taken to the Palace of Westminster and another service held.

The Queen will lie in rank and file in the Palace’s Westminster Hall. She will lie on an elevated crate known as a catafalque, and members of the public as well as VIPs will be allowed to visit to pay their respects.

In the meantime, the King will receive the condolences at Westminster Hall and later embark on a tour of the UK. He is expected to visit Scotland first, likely on Sunday, before continuing to Northern Ireland on Monday. His final trip to Wales is expected on D-Day+7, next Thursday.

The Burial and the Coronation

The Queen’s state funeral is expected to take place on D-Day+10, that is Sunday 9.18, at London’s Westminster Abbey. Heads of state and other VIPs from abroad will be present. A funeral service will later be held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, a royal residence outside London, and the Queen will be buried in King George VI’s Memorial Chapel in St George’s Chapel.

Brits will likely have the day off if the state funeral falls on a weekday. Politico reported last year that the British government was concerned about the huge influx of crowds to the burial sites.

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, last year could be something of a model, although it was clearly of a smaller scale. This funeral took place on April 17, 2021. Although Prince Philip was not given a state funeral reserved for monarchs, he was buried after a service at St George’s Chapel. Philip was buried in the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel, but his remains are being moved to King George VI’s Memorial Chapel to be buried alongside the Queen.

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