Operation London Bridge: the Plan After Queen Elizabeth’s Death

An active British monarch passing away is a rare occurrence. There needs to be preparation. After the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday at the age of 96, the long-awaited “Operation London Bridge” was finally put into motion.
After the death of the British monarch, an officially scripted sequence of events would take place, given the code name Operation London Bridge after a defunct London landmark that was “coming down” at the while.

Although it has been leaked multiple times over the years, the not-so-secret plan has never been made public. Its purpose is to guarantee the continuity of the royal throne as the seat of power in Britain after the death of the queen and to honor her memory in a fitting way.

Operation London Bridge: the Plan After Queen Elizabeth's Death
Operation London Bridge: the Plan After Queen Elizabeth’s Death

One description of the protocol, revealed by the Guardian in 2017 following an investigation, describes how the queen’s private secretary would discreetly deliver the news of the queen’s death using a coded word.

An individual has reported that “London Bridge has collapsed.”

D-Day
The day of the death is referred to in the plan as “D-Day.”

Normal protocol dictates that upon the death of the British monarch, the throne will pass instantly to the new monarch. Upon his mother’s death on Thursday, Prince Charles acceded to the throne as King Charles III.

The process is difficult for the BBC because it is a state-funded broadcaster. Hosts are anticipated to break the news in a measured, melancholy manner while dressed all in black to show respect for the gravity of the situation. In the event of a national emergency—which is extremely rare—the offices will be equipped with an alarm system.

According to an article by veteran broadcaster Jeremy Paxman, journalists were required to show up on a weekend once every six months during the 1970s and 1980s so that they might see the process of Elizabeth’s death. “On Royalty,” Paxman said, “long sets of instructions were produced and laminated in plastic.”

However, there have been some shifts. The royal family’s Twitter account was the first to announce the queen’s death on Thursday. Nonetheless, the event had been widely anticipated, and the BBC and other networks had already gone to blackout coverage.

Notification of the death was made public on the royal website and at Buckingham Palace, and flags were lowered to half-staff across the kingdom.

D-Day+1
According to confidential documents obtained by Politico last year, the days following D-Day are labeled D-Day+1, D-Day+2, and so on. As of yet, we don’t know the specifics of how these events will unfold, but we can extrapolate based on centuries of monarchical precedent.

On Saturday, rather than the regular Wednesday, a “Accession Council” is scheduled to meet. After the death of the king, the body convenes at St. James’s Palace, site of numerous historic royal events, usually within the first 24 hours. It plays host to government officials and members of the royal family during King Charles’s accession ceremonies.

The Privy Council, the monarch’s highest advisory body, is responsible for officially announcing the monarch’s death and the accession of the new monarch. Lord President of the Privy Council Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative MP and the leader of the House of Commons, presides over the Accession Council.

The new sovereign, or head of state, will then meet with privy councilors for the first time later that day. Every Scottish king since George I in 1714 has sworn an oath promising to defend the Church of Scotland. Official record-keepers are provided with signed copies of the oath.

Later, a proclamation is read from the balcony above Friary Court at St. James’s Palace to announce the new monarch’s ascension. For the first time since 1952, the national anthem will be played with the words “God Save the King” added after the proclamation announcing Charles’s ascension is read.

After D-Day +2
The procession to bring the queen’s body to Buckingham Palace is scheduled on Saturday. Her death at the royal family’s Scottish vacation residence of Balmoral means that the mode of transportation for her casket has not yet been decided upon.

A select group of top government ministers, including the prime minister, will attend a reception when the queen’s body is brought back to Buckingham Palace. When Tuesday rolls around, her body will be transferred to the Palace of Westminster for a second memorial service.

The Westminster Hall of the palace will be used for the queen’s lying in state. The public and notables will be able to pay their respects as she rests atop a catafalque, a raised coffin.

At the same time, the King will be attending the condolence motion at Westminster Hall before setting out on a tour of the country. His first stop will be in Scotland, likely on Sunday, and then he will travel to Northern Ireland on Monday. On Thursday, D-Day+7, he will make his final trip, to Wales.

Celebration of Life Service
On D-Day+10, or Sunday, September 18, in London’s Westminster Abbey will be where the queen will be laid to rest in a state burial. Foreign dignitaries, including heads of state, will be present. Queen Elizabeth II will be laid to rest at the King George VI’s Memorial Chapel within St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the royal residence located outside of London, following a committal service later today.

If the state burial is scheduled for a weekday, many British citizens will likely be given the day off. The British government was reportedly worried about the large number of people attending the funerals last year, as reported by Politico.

A possible precedent may be the funeral of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s late husband, which took place last year. On April 17, 2021, there was a funeral. After a service at St. George’s Chapel, Prince Philip was laid to rest. He did not receive a state funeral, which is reserved for monarchs. Philip was buried in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel, but his bones will be relocated to the King George VI’s Memorial Chapel so that he can be buried next to the queen.