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Operation London Bridge: the British govt’s plan in case of the Queen’s death

In spite of the monarch’s death, the well-oiled machinery of the monarchy must keep going. But first, the late Queen must be late to rest. In 2021, the comprehensive plan for what will happen after the Queen dies was leaked.

Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96

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Dubbed Operation London Bridge, the original plan was drawn up as early as the 1960s, and has undergone numerous revisions since then: it was regularly updated three times a year. It is safe to guess that the longest-living and longest-reigning British monarch has outlived most not all of those who originally planned her funeral.

The death of the monarch has already triggered 10 days of official mourning. The first to be informed was Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was notified of the Queen’s death by the royal private secretary. The PM has already given her short speech, praising the late sovereign. It is expected that the Queen’s heir, King Charles III, will make a speech within hours.

But in these modern days, the new King’s first words to his people were published on Twitter:

A statement from His Majesty The King: pic.twitter.com/AnBiyZCher

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022

The original plans assumed that news outlets across the country and around the globe would learn of the Queen’s death all at once. But like with Charles’s announcement, the Royal Family’s Twitter account was the first to notify the world, as the flag at Buckingham Palace was being lowered to half-mast.

Flags will remain lowered to half-mast across the country until the morning after the queen’s funeral, with one exception: flags will be raised on the day Charles is announced king and stay up that way until the next afternoon.
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Charles has automatically become the monarch upon the death of his mother. He will be formally proclaimed the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by the Accession Council. Protocol dictates this happens within 24 hours of the sovereign’s death. The parliament will meet later that day and the MPs will swear allegiance to the King and express their condolences. Most parliamentary activities will be suspended for the 10-day period of mourning. King Charles III will also receive PM Truss and her cabinet for an audience. Formal proclamations of the ascension of the new monarch will be ceremonially read out in Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, the capitals of the three countries that make up the United Kingdom together with England.

The coronation of the new King is still some time away. A suitable period of mourning must be observed, and the ceremony itself is a massive undertaking. Elizabeth II waited for nearly 16 months after the death of her father George VI before she was crowned in Westminster Abbey. Her uncle, Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to be able to marry the woman he loved, reigned for almost 11 months without being crowned.

Incidentally, everything that has to do with Charles III taking over also has a codename: Operation Spring Tide.

The Queen will lie in state in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace for four days after her death, and then move to Westminster Hall, the oldest part of London’s Westminster Palace, which houses the Parliament. Following that, it will be moved to the adjacent Westminster Abbey for the funeral.

The bulk of the planning of Operation London Bridge deals with how to handle the massive crowds which are expected to descend on the capital.

It will be a major security operation, and accommodation, travel networks, health, policing, and basic services are expected to be stretched to capacity. The times being what they are, the services will be monitoring any possible terrorist threats. An important factor not only because of the target that such masses of people would make for terrorists, but also because many world leaders are expected to be in attendance.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has died down, it nonetheless still remains a concern, particularly with the huge crowds that are expected.

At the request of the late monarch herself, this “day of national mourning”, as it is called in the Operation London Bridge plans, will not be made a national holiday.

On the day, two minutes of silence will be observed, as the pallbearers carrying the coffin from Westminster Hall will pause at the entrance to the Abbey at 11 am.

The Queen’s memorial service will be officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest-ranking clergyman of the Church of England. Following the ceremony, the Queen’s coffin will be placed on a gun carriage for a brief procession down the Mall which runs between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, and then will be removed to Windsor Castle royal residence, on the outskirts of London, some 40 kilometres away. There, the Queen will be laid to rest in St George’s Chapel. Her late husband, Prince Phillip, who died in April last year and was interred in one of the vaults of the chapel as a temporary measure, will be moved to the Royal Vaults to be reunited with his sovereign and wife for 73 years.

It should be noted that the British monarch is also the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, composed of 56 former British dominions and colonies. Apart from the UK, Queen Elizabeth II remained the head of state of 14 other Commonwealth realms. The British Foreign Office immediately notified their respective governments, and they will set in motion their own plans for the period of mourning.


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