Queen Elizabeth II death: Operation London Bridge kicks in as British monarch passes away

Queen Elizabeth II's death kicked off a detailed Operation London Bridge, put in place in the 1960s, which meticulously lists the procedures that roll out moments after her death and culminate with her funeral 10 days later.

Updated on Sep 10, 2022   |  02:17 AM IST  |  126.5K
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II breathed her last in Scotland on Thursday
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II breathed her last in Scotland on Thursday

Following the news of Queen Elizabeth II's death at age 96 on September 8, 2022, the royal family has a special plan in place that dates back to the 1960s.  According to reports, the plan, called Operation London Bridge, outlines what will happen in the United Kingdom once the queen passes away.

The plan specifies that the UK will enter a period of mourning over the following 10 days while her burial arrangements are completed now that the news of her passing has become public. Before being transferred to the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle for her last resting place, the state funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey.

Here's detailed information to know about Operation London Bridge:

What is Operation London Bridge?

Queen Elizabeth

Operation London Bridge, the plan to handle the death of the head of state in Britain, was initially published by The Guardian in 2017 and later by Politico in 2021. The papers state that the London Bridge strategy took into account the possibility that she may die at Balmoral. Operation Unicorn was the codename for the component of the operation that involved killing her at her favorite castle in Scotland.

These protocols truly serve as a thorough outline for the funeral procession and other important logistical tasks. The plan designates her funeral day as D+10 and the day following her death as D+1 (D-day plus 10 days). Following a condolence message, the British parliament will cease operations for these ten days.

When did Operation London Bridge start?

Queen Elizabeth

Since the passing of King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1952, the phrase "royal death" has been used as a code. His code phrase at the time was "Hyde Park Corner," which informed important government figures of his passing.

Other code words, such as Operation Tay Bridge for The Queen Mother and Operation Forth Bridge for Prince Philip, have since been established for significant members of the royal family. Operation London Bridge is the secret name for Queen Elizabeth, whereas Operation Menai Bridge is said to be the code name for Prince Charles.

How is Operation London Bridge enacted?

Queen Elizabeth

According to The Guardian, the plan specifies that Sir Edward Young, Queen Elizabeth's private secretary, will be the first person (outside of her family and medical staff) to deliver the news of her passing.

Young will then get in touch with Elizabeth Truss, the prime minister, and inform her of her demise using the code phrase "London Bridge is down."

Who else is informed of Queen Elizabeth's death through Operation London Bridge?

Queen Elizabeth

The news of the queen's passing will be announced via the Foreign Office's Global Response Centre to "the 36 other Commonwealth states for which she has acted as a symbolic figurehead" and "the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state," according to The Guardian. Additionally informed will be other heads of state, ambassadors, governors general, and other leaders in the world.

How will the general public learn about Queen Elizabeth's death?

Queen Elizabeth

The official notification for the general public will be made through a newsflash to the Press Association and international media sources when certain officials have been informed of Queen Elizabeth's passing through Operation London Bridge. 

A footman will simultaneously post the news of her passing outside Buckingham Palace. The message will also be visible on the palace website.

The Queen passed away quietly at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will stay at Balmoral this evening and will travel to London tomorrow, the Royal Family announced on Twitter on September 8.

The first representative of the government to speak will be the prime minister. Prince Charles, the next monarch, will then meet with the prime minister before making a speech to the country at 6 o'clock in the evening. the evening after Queen Elizabeth's passing.

When will Queen Elizabeth's funeral take place?

Queen Elizabeth

Ten days of mourning will follow Prince Charles' address and precede Queen Elizabeth's official funeral. Several alternative actions are implemented depending on where the queen passes away.

It has been suggested that Operation Unicorn would be carried out if she were to pass away in Scotland, where she is presently staying at Balmoral Castle. The Scottish Parliament will be promptly suspended in the event of the Queen's passing at her home in Scotland, according to The Independent, and officials will be given "36 hours to prepare for a move of condolence in the chamber."

Her coffin will subsequently be transferred to Waverley Station where it will board the Royal Train to London after stops at Holyroodhouse and St. Giles' Cathedral.

Where will Queen Elizabeth's funeral take place?

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philips

A committal service will be performed at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle after the state funeral, which will take place at Westminster Abbey. After that, the queen will be laid to rest in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Operation London Bridge, the long-kept secret U.K. government plan for what will happen in the days following Queen Elizabeth II's passing, can now be made public.

Over the years, tidbits have emerged, ranging from claims the prime minister will be informed by a civil servant calling to say "London Bridge is down" to claims the death will be reported via a newsflash on the Press Association wire.

After reports obtained a number of documents outlining in minute detail how Britain is faring as the day has come, the entire scope of the preparations made by the royal family and the Cabinet Office's BRIDGES Secretariat can now be published for the first time.

According to the documents, all branches of the British government will need to take extreme measures, including launching a massive security operation to control the huge crowds and travel problems that might cause London to become "full" for the first time ever.

They disclose preparations for the new King Charles to begin a tour of the United Kingdom and for the prime minister and his Cabinet to meet the queen's coffin at St. Pancras station. the days leading up to the funeral.

The timetable for the 10 days between the queen's passing and her funeral includes both mundane and absurd details. In one document, it expresses worry that if it can't lower its flags to half-mast within 10 minutes of activation and may need to rely on an outside contractor, it may face a wave of public outrage. Retweets will be prohibited across all Whitehall ministries unless authorized by the government's communications chief, according to another decision.

These are all the specifics of the strategy behind Charles' ascension to the throne, including Operation London Bridge and Operation Spring Tide.

D-Day/D+0 - Friday, September 9

Queen Elizabeth

Traditionally, today would have been designated as D-Day or D+0 in the London Bridge post-Queen's-death preparations.

However, because of how late in the day the announcement was made—at 6.31 p.m. on September 8—plans had to be changed, causing D+0 to be taken into consideration on Friday.

Charles and Camilla will spend Thursday night at Balmoral before leaving for London on Friday.

Despite his sorrow, Charles must perform his duties as the next monarch, and he will meet Liz Truss, the prime minister, as soon as is reasonably practicable.

In order to ratify the meticulously planned program for the upcoming days, Charles will meet with the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, who is in charge of the accession and the Queen's funeral.

The arrangements, which have the codename London Bridge, have long been developed with government input.

They will take into account Operation Unicorn, the Queen's death in Scotland backup measures.

The length of the court or royal mourning for members of the royal family and royal households shall be determined by Charles. It's supposed to go on for a month.

The length of the national mourning period, which is anticipated to be between 12 and 13 days from now until the day of the Queen's funeral, will be announced by the government.

They will also declare the day of the funeral to be a Day of National Mourning, which will be a public holiday.

Royal structures' Union flags will be flown at half-staff.

Never does the Royal Standard fly at half-mast. It is a representation of the Sovereign and the United Kingdom and a reminder of the monarchy's persistence.

In addition to cannon salutes that will fire one round in Hyde Park for each year of the Queen's life, bells at Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Windsor Castle will ring out.

The people will start to drop flowers as tributes from all around the world come in when the royal apartments' floodlights are switched down.

D-Day+1 - Saturday, September 10

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles

The Accession Council, which is composed of senior government officials, will convene at St. James' Palace on the day following The Queen's passing at 10 am to announce King Charles as the new monarch.

There will be hundreds of privy counselors invited, including the prime minister and senior ministries. Gentlemen are expected to wear morning suits or lounge suits with dark or black ties. There should be no jewelry worn.

Then, in front of Camilla, the new Queen, and William, who are also Privy Counselors, Charles convenes his first Privy Council and administers his oath and personal declaration.

The first public proclamation of the new sovereign is read in the open air from the Friary Court balcony at St James's Palace by the Garter King of Arms.

The proclamation proclaiming Charles as King will then be read at St. James' Palace and the Royal Exchange in the City of London.

There are declarations made both locally and nationally. To coincide with the proclamations, Union flags are raised to full mast at 1 o'clock and stay there for 24 hours before falling to half-mast.

A message of sympathy will be decided upon at a meeting of Parliament. The remainder of the session's business will be put on hold for ten days.

Members of Parliament will pay tribute in the Commons.

Charles will meet with the prime minister and the cabinet at 3:30 p.m.

D-Day+2 - Sunday, September 11

Queen Elizabeth

It's anticipated that the Queen's casket will be transported by car to Edinburgh's Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Proclamations will be read in the devolved parliaments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast.

D-Day+3 - Monday, September 12

Queen Elizabeth

The Procession is expected along Royal Mile to St Giles' Cathedral. Members of the royal family provide service and participate in the Princes' Vigil.

The Queen's coffin may be presented to the public during a brief lie in state at St. Giles.

The King can attend the joint meeting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords at Westminster for a Motion of Condolence.

Charles will eventually travel to Wales and Northern Ireland as part of Operation Spring Tide after departing from England and visiting Scotland.

D-Day+4 - Tuesday, September 13

Queen Elizabeth

There are plans to fly the body of the Queen to London. At rest at Buckingham Palace, it is anticipated.

There is a practice run for the coffin procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster.

D-Day+5 - Wednesday,  September 14

Queen Elizabeth

Following a formal parade through London, the Queen's lying in state is anticipated to start in Westminster Hall under the name Operation Marquee. It will go on for four whole days.

A brief liturgy will be held by the Archbishop of Canterbury after the casket arrives.

Similar to how they did in 2002 when the Queen Mother lay in state, hundreds of thousands of people will flow past the casket as it is being carried by its catafalque to pay their respects.

Operation Feather is responsible for overseeing the lines outside.

Senior royals are also anticipated to provide their own heartfelt remembrance by standing guard around the coffin at some point, a custom known as the Vigil of the Princes.

D-Day+6 - Thursday, September 15

Queen Elizabeth

Practice for the state funeral procession is anticipated to be held in addition to the ongoing lying in the state.

D-Day+7 - Friday, September 16

Queen Elizabeth

The state of lying continues and ends on D+9. State leaders start to show up for the funeral.

D-Day+10 - Queen's funeral - Monday, September 19

Queen Elizabeth

The state funeral for the Queen is anticipated to take place at Westminster Abbey in the heart of London.

Instead of utilizing horses, the Queen's coffin was originally supposed to be transported to the abbey on a gun carriage pulled by sailors known as naval ratings.

Like they did for the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Duke of Edinburgh, senior members of the family are anticipated to follow behind in a sorrowful manner.

The armed forces will line the streets and participate in the parade.

Heads of state, presidents, prime ministers, European royals, and prominent persons from public life will be welcomed to congregate in the abbey, which has space for 2,000 worshippers.

The event will be broadcast on television, and there will likely be a nationwide moment of silence.

The Queen's casket will be brought to St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on the same day as the funeral for a televised committal service.

Private interment service with senior members of the royal family will take place later that evening.

The King George VI memorial chapel, a wing of the main chapel where her parents and sister Princess Margaret's ashes were interred, will serve as the Queen's last resting place.

In order to join the Queen's casket, Philip's will be transferred from the Royal Vault to the memorial chapel.

Also read: Queen Elizabeth II of England passes away at the age of 96

FAQs

When was Operation London Bridge created?
1960's

What is protocol when Queen dies?
According to protocol, within 24 hours of the queen's death, lawmakers in Parliament will take oaths of allegiance to the new king. The Accession Council, a ceremonial body, will be summoned to St. James's Palace, a Tudor royal residence near Buckingham Palace, to officially proclaim the new sovereign.

Why is it called Operation London Bridge?
Named after a former London landmark that was forever “falling down,” Operation London Bridge was the code word attributed to a formally choreographed sequence of events that would occur after the death of the British monarch.

Is it Operation London Bridge or unicorn?
Details of the British government's plan for the Queen's death — Operation London Bridge — have been well-reported over the years. But now that the Queen has died in Scotland, a second, lesser-known plan called Operation Unicorn has to unfold first.

How many days mourning if Queen dies?
The 10 day mourning period

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