London Bridge is down: The royal protocols in the event of the Queen’s death

Did you know that the code for Queen Elizabeth II's death is “Operation London Bridge?” Find out what protocols would adhere when the monarch's reign comes to an end.

queen

by Stephanie Anthony |

Although no-one likes to mull on anyone's death too much, the Queen turned 96 this year, and the day will inevitably come when the throne passes to Prince Charles.

So what will happen when the Queen passes away?

Is the Queen ill?

The Queen's health has been a worry for a while now. This stems from her positive Covid test in February and spells of illness, causing her to pull back from several public events over the last few months such as the Queen’s speech at Parliament. The monarch has also faced ongoing 'episodic mobility problems' since last autumn, and now uses a walking stick. More recently, during her Platinum Jubilee ( 2nd - 5th June) the Queen pulled out of some of her celebrations due to discomfort.

In a statement, Buckingham Palace said the Queen 'greatly enjoyed' her birthday parade and flypast in London but 'did experience some discomfort'. The statement continues, 'Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty, with great reluctance, has concluded that she will not attend.'

What happens when the Queen dies?

London Bridge
©Getty

“Operation London Bridge” is the code name given to a complex, intricate, and timed-out plan that has been in place since the 1960s, in event of the Queen's death.

It is a highly-detailed plan that consists of everything from exactly how the nation will be told, what happens in the next days and hours, to the funeral preparations and the announcement of Charles as King.

 If Her Majesty dies during the night, her death would reportedly not be announced until 8am.

The Queen’s private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt will be the first official to convey the news setting “Operation London Bridge” in full motion.

The code word “London Bridge is down” will be used to inform the Prime Minister of the news. The news of her death will then be distributed to various heads of state before it is made known to the public, including the British press and the world's media outlets.

At Buckingham Palace a footman will pin a black-edged notice to the gates and the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text.

The public will find out in a newsflash after the Press Association, newspapers and television and radio stations have been told. All BBC channels will show the BBC One broadcast announcing her death. Other channels are not required to interrupt regular scheduling, though it’s almost certain they will.

Following the initial announcement, the BBC will cancel scheduled comedy shows until after her funeral. At commercial radio stations a blue "Obit light" will glow to tell DJs to play appropriate music and go to news at the next available moment.

Newscasters on TV will wear black attire with news likely to dominate most channels for weeks.

The same moment she passes, her son, Prince Charles, will become King, and his wife Camilla will become Queen Consort, as requested in the Queen's statement on the eve of the 70th anniversary of her accession.

How will the country mourn the Queen’s death?

Outside the Palace, all the British flags will be lowered, and bells will be tolled.

The parliament will also gather, and on the evening of his mother's death, Prince Charles will make his first address to the public as King.

The day after her death flags flying at half-mast will be raised and Charles will be proclaimed King. Trumpeters from the Life Guards, wearing red plumes on their helmets, will step on the roof of Buckingham Palace and give three blasts.

A 41-gun salute – almost seven minutes of artillery – will be fired from Hyde Park.

Great Britain will enter a 12-day mourning period, culminating in the Queen's funeral.

Meanwhile, Charles will tour the country and make stops in Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff to appear at services to honour his mother and meet with elected leaders.

How many days do we get off when the Queen dies?

While the UK will partake in a 12-day mourning period, only the day of the Queen's funeral will be considered a national holiday. The London Stock Exchange will close as will most UK banks. There will also be a bank holiday on the subsequent coronation of the next monarch.

What will Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral look like?

queen Elizabeth II
©Getty

Prior to the funeral, Queen Elizabeth's body will be moved to Westminster Hall. The bells of Big Ben will chime, and her body will then lie in state for four days.

Her orb, sceptre, and Imperial Crown will then be placed on her coffin, and the public may pay their respects to their Queen.

The number of mourners expected to queue up to see the Queen is immeasurable. More than 200,000 members of the public paid their respects to the Queen Mother when she died in 2002. And after Princess Diana’s death in 1997, tens of thousands of mourners laid bouquets of flowers outside the palace.

There will be ten pallbearers who will practice their role in secret - British royals are buried in lead-lined coffins, and Princess Diana's weighed a quarter of a ton.

Four soldiers will stand silent vigil for 20 minutes at a time, with two ready in reserve.

The wreaths will be changed every day.

The funeral itself would likely take place 12 days after the Queen’s death and will be broadcast on TV and streamed online. The state funeral will begin by her coffin being taken to Westminster Abbey by gun carriage, where it will be led by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Businesses will come to a close to pay respect to the monarch. Leaders and heads of state from across the world will attend, with members of the public lining the route of the funeral cortege.

After the service, her body will then be moved to her final resting place, along with her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, to the gothic church's King George VI memorial chapel.

The tiny chapel houses the remains of the Queen's father George VI, her mother the Queen Mother, and sister Princess Margaret.

When would Prince Charles become King?

Prince-Charles

As first in line to the throne, the Prince of Wales will become King Charles III as soon as his mother has passed away.

Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II immediately following the death of her father, King George VI. This is because a throne is never vacant – sovereignty passes on accession rather than a coronation.

It is expected that the accession council would then meet at St James’ Palace to declare him as king, which is just a formality. His coronation ceremony will also be arranged, but it is likely to be far sooner than Elizabeth’s was.

Furthermore, the national anthem will be changed to “God Save the King” and new postage stamps and currency would also be minted and printed to reflect his ascension to the throne.

Prince William would also be made Prince Of Wales and the Duchess of Cambridge would become the Princess of Wales – the same title that was held by Princess Diana. Prince William will become the heir-apparent and will be followed by his three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.

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