The not-so-secret plan was never officially released, though versions of it have been leaked numerous times over the years. It is designed to not only ensure that news of the Queen’s death is delivered in a dignified manner and her memory is commemorated, but also to ensure that the royal throne is maintained as head of the British state.
According to an account of the proceedings published by the Guardian after a 2017 investigation, news of the Queen’s death would be announced privately by the Queen’s private secretary with a code phrase:
“London Bridge is down.”
According to accounts of the plan, the day of death is known as “D-Day”.
According to the planned procedure, after the death of the British monarch, his replacement immediately takes over. This means that after Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday, her son Prince Charles automatically became monarch – and in his case, he became King Charles III.
For the BBC, a state-funded broadcaster, the procedure is complicated. The news is expected to be announced in a cautious and somber fashion, with hosts wearing black to emphasize the significance of what happened. An alarm for national emergencies, rarely used, will go off in the offices.
Veteran animator Jeremy Paxman wrote that in the 1970s and 1980s reporters had to come for a weekend every six months to follow the proceedings of Elizabeth’s death. “Long sets of guidelines were produced and laminated in plastic,” Paxman wrote in his book “On Royalty.”
But some things have changed. News of the Queen’s passing was first shared on a Twitter account on Thursday belonging to the royal family. However, it was widely expected and broadcasters from the BBC and other networks were already all black.
Flags were flown at half-mast across the country, with an obituary posted on both Buckingham Palace and the royal website.
The following days are considered D+1, D+2, etc., according to leaked documents published by Politico last year. It’s not yet clear exactly how these days will unfold, but we do get a rough glimpse of centuries of monarchical practice.
A “Membership Council” is expected to meet on Saturday, later than usual. The body usually meets within 24 hours of the monarch’s death, at St. James’s Palace, where many important events in royal history have taken place. It hosts civil servants and members of the royal family for the accession procedures to King Charles.
The council officially declares the death of the monarch and the accession of the successor to the throne, according to the Privy Council, an official advisory body to the monarch. The Membership Council is chaired by the Lord President of the Privy Council – Penny Mordaunt, Conservative MP and Leader of the House of Commons.
Later, but not always on the same day, the new sovereign, or head of state, will hold his first session with Privy Councillors. The monarch will take an oath swearing to protect the Church of Scotland, which has been sworn by all monarchs since George I in 1714. Signed copies of the oath are then sent to the official recorders.
The proclamation marking the monarch’s accession is then read from the balcony above Friary Court at St. James’s Palace, accompanied by gun salutes. After the reading of the proclamation announcing Charles’ accession, for the first time since 1952, the national anthem will be played with the words “God Save the King”.
On Saturday, the Queen’s body is expected to be transported to Buckingham Palace. As she died at Balmoral in Scotland, her family’s summer retreat, it is not yet known whether the coffin will be transported by royal train or by plane.
When the Queen’s body returns to Buckingham Palace, a small number of senior government ministers, including the Prime Minister, will attend a reception. His body is expected to remain in this palace until Tuesday, when it will be moved to the Palace of Westminster and another service will be held.
The Queen will lay in state in the Palace’s Westminster Hall. She will be reclining on a raised box known as the catafalque, and members of the public, as well as VIPs, will be allowed to visit to pay their respects.
Meanwhile, the King will receive the motion of condolence at Westminster Hall and later embark on a UK tour. He is expected to travel to Scotland first, likely on Sunday, before traveling to Northern Ireland on Monday. His last trip, to Wales, is scheduled for D+7, next Thursday.
The Queen’s state funeral is scheduled to take place on D-Day+10, Sunday September 18, at Westminster Abbey in London. Heads of State and other foreign personalities will be present. Later there will be a burial service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, a royal residence outside London, and the Queen will be buried inside the King George VI Memorial Chapel in inside the chapel of Saint-Georges.
Britons will likely have the day off if the state funeral takes place on a weekday. Politico reported last year that the UK government was concerned about the huge influx of crowds at burial sites.
The funeral of Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip last year could provide a model, although it was clearly on a smaller scale. This funeral took place on April 17, 2021. Although Prince Philip did not have a state funeral, reserved for monarchs, he was buried after a service at St. George’s Chapel. Philip was buried in the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel, but his remains will be moved to the King George VI Memorial Chapel so he can be laid to rest next to the Queen.
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