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  • Writer's pictureBrandon West

What is Operation London Bridge? Here's What Happens After the Queen Dies

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

The not-so-secret Operation London Bridge for what happens when the Queen of England dies - an event the Crown has been planning for since the 1960's.

With Queen Elizabeth's (age 96) health concerns heightening as Prince Charles and Prince William were rushing to Balmoral Castle where the Queen is staying, many have raised fears that her long reign as monarch could be over soon. So what happens after? Operation London Bridge.

What is Operation London Bridge? No, it's not the Fergie song. It's a detailed plan for what will happen after the Queen passes. Here are all the steps:

First, the call.

It all begins with a phone call. At the time of the Queen’s death, Sir Edward Young, her private secretary, will call the Prime Minister and announce “London Bridge is down.”

Then, the notifications. Once the Prime Minister has been alerted, news will go out to the 15 governments where the Queen is still head of state, including Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Bahamas. Soon after that, officials in the 38 other nations in the Commonwealth will be alerted.

At that point, a footman dressed in black will pin an official notice to the gates of Buckingham Palace. Ring the alarm. At the BBC, there’s an alarm that signals national emergencies; it will go off when the Queen dies. At that point, the BBC’s logo, which is usually red, will be changed to black. And all anchors will wear black suits and ties. A little before 9:45 a.m. ET, the BBC’s logo on its website turned black, and anchors are wearing black, though there was no official word about the Queen’s state.

A transition of power. Flags will be lowered to half-mast and Prince Charles will unofficially become king immediately upon Elizabeth’s death. He is expected to make his first speech as head of state the evening of his mother’s passing.

The day after her death, flags will be raised again and at 11:00 a.m. local time, Charles will officially become king and Camilla will become the U.K.’s queen. He’ll then undergo a tour of the U.K., stopping in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales to attend services all while Westminster Hall is prepped for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

The funeral. Four days after Elizabeth’s death, there will be a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall. Elizabeth will lie in state for four days, then be buried nine days after she passes. Two thousand invited guests, largely heads of state, will attend in person. The funeral will be broadcast globally.

Elizabeth is expected to then be buried next to her late husband, Prince Philip, and her father, King George VI. shares there is "much more to Operation London Bridge, which is an incredibly detailed preparation for the monarch’s passing. For instance, if Elizabeth dies at Balmoral, her body will first lie in Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, before being carried up the Royal Mile to St. Giles’s Cathedral." The BBC will cancel all comedy shows for 12 days following her death.

And, of course, the words to the national anthem will change to “God Save the King.”

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