The sad news was announced on Thursday that, after a 70-year reign over the United Kingdom, 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II had passed away at her Scottish retreat of Balmoral.
Immediately upon her death, a somewhat secretive and rather complex plan known as Operation London Bridge went into effect to help guide the kingdom and commonwealth as the monarch’s death is mourned, The Washington Post reported.
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.
The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/VfxpXro22W
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) September 8, 2022
“London Bridge is down”
That plan, which has been formulated and tweaked over the decades of Her Majesty’s rule, was launched mere moments after her death via a coded phrase released by the queen’s private secretary that simply declared: “London Bridge is down.”
The Post reported that, according to the plan, that code phrase would trigger a complex, coordinated, and highly detailed response across all facets of the United Kingdom, including how her death should be announced, how her succession and funeral would be handled, and so much more over a 10-day period following her day of death, which will be dubbed “D-Day.”
Much of what is known about the Operation London Bridge plan is derived from a 2021 report from Politico after it managed to obtain a “series of documents” that laid out a myriad of sub-operations and contingencies that were ready to go on short notice following the queen’s death.
A glimpse at some of what’s to come
On D-Day, a scripted “call cascade” was immediately launched to spread the word of the queen’s death to cabinet ministers, other top officials, and the British media, all of whom had their own detailed responsibilities and mandatory requirements to tend to with great haste, and official flags were to be lowered to half-staff no later than 10 minutes after the death was announced.
The queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles, was automatically and immediately elevated to become King Charles III, though his formal accession and confirmation as sovereign would occur on D+1, followed by a choreographed tour of the kingdom in the following days, both to receive formal condolences as well as to be received as the new monarch.
Also occurring on D+1 was a formal proclamation of the queen’s death and the new king’s accession in coordination with an artillery salute in the queen’s honor at the Tower of London — in this case, 96 rounds were fired in observance of her 96 years.
On D+2, the queen’s coffin will be transported back to London, most likely by royal train, to be received by high-ranking officials. She will then be transferred from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on D+5, where she will lie in state for three days, at which point visitors, be they commoners or foreign VIPs, will have an opportunity to pay their respects.
Laid to rest 10 days after death
Finally, on D+10, a funeral service for Queen Elizabeth II will be conducted at Westminster Abbey, after which she will be transported one final time to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and be laid to rest beneath King George VI’s Memorial Chapel.
The plan includes much pomp and circumstance for the deceased monarch amid a period of national mourning, but given that Elizabeth was the longest-ruling monarch in British history, it all seems quite befitting of Her Majesty’s honor and memory.