The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has set off the meticulous plan of action dubbed “Operation London Bridge” by the British government, which will direct the country over the coming days.
The all-hands protocol was set up in the 1960s, and gives detailed instructions on the steps to follow for the first 10 days after Her Majesty’s passing. The plan will ensure a smooth transition for her eldest son, now King Charles III, to ascend the throne.
Charles automatically became king upon Elizabeth’s death but will not be officially announced as the new monarch until Friday.
The operation’s name is a secret code used to communicate the news to senior Buckingham Palace staff and members of the government before it was announced to the rest of the world.
In an attempt to keep the news under wraps, the first individuals who were alerted were to be told “London Bridge is down.”
However, despite the hoped-for secrecy, the queen’s code word has long been known, and the detailed plans for the 10 days ahead of her funeral are no secret either, having been detailed at length by the Guardian in 2017.
Politico revealed further details of the plans in 2021 after being given access to high level documents. These details include U.K. officials’ plans for a possible crisis if London becomes “full” of mourners.
The Guardian did note, however, that the plans have been repeatedly updated and changed over the years, and those reevaluations could mean that we see a very different Operation London Bridge than is expected.
If plans remain largely unchanged, the queen’s death will be referred to internally as “D-Day,” the military term for a major new operation. D-Day is now more commonly known as the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy, which began the final push that ushered in the end of World War II.
The day following her death, Friday, will be “D+1” and will follow such a pattern until her funeral on “D+10,” which will be declared a “Day of National Mourning.”
If all went to plan, The queen’s private secretary would have been the first person to hear of her death before a “call cascade” shared the news with the prime minister as well as Britain’s most senior ministers and officials.
Departmental permanent secretaries would then be directed to tell government ministers, “We have just been informed of the death of Her Majesty The Queen.”
The plan states that ministers would be told that “discretion is required” ahead of the worldwide announcement.
At the same time, the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre was to alert the Commonwealth nations and the countries where the queen was head of state. When all senior government officials were alerted, flags across the U.K. government’s main offices, Whitehall, would be lowered to half-staff as Parliament is recalled.
The operation outlines the next 10 days.
At 10 a.m. on D-Day+1, the Accession Council will meet at St. James’ Palace to officially proclaim King Charles III the new sovereign. This proclamation will be read at St. James’ Palace and the Royal Exchange in the City of London, which will confirm Charles as king.
Parliament will meet to agree on a message of condolence with other business suspended for 10 days. Charles will meet with new U.K. prime minister, Liz Truss, and her senior cabinet officials.
The plan states that, because she died in Balmoral, the queen’s body will lie at rest in her smallest palace, Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh.
Her coffin will then be carried up the Royal Mile to St Giles’s cathedral for a reception before being put on board the Royal Train at Waverley station. Mourners are expected to gather at stations along the journey down the east coast mainline to throw flowers on the passing train.
Eventually, the beloved monarch’s body will arrive at the throne room in Buckingham Palace. An altar, the pall, the royal standard and four Grenadier Guards standing watch will all be present and surrounding the queen’s body.
On the fifth day, a procession through London will take her coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster and a service at Westminster Hall.
The Queen will lie in state there for three days with her coffin on a raised box in the middle of Westminster Hall, open to the public for 23 hours a day.
If the plan is followed, the funeral will be on the 10th day at Westminster Abbey and will be the first funeral of a British monarch there since 1760.
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