Update, 2:10 p.m. Sept. 8: Buckingham Palace announced this afternoon that Queen Elizabeth II has died.
Queen Elizabeth II is under medical supervision and doctors “are concerned” for her health, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace released today. Although online rumors have run wild with speculation about the queen’s status (living or dead), there is no mistaking the fragility of the 96-year-old longest-reigning British monarch’s health, or the global significance of her passing—crowned in 1953, she’s been in power longer than many reading this have been alive.
Last year Politico reported on Operation London Bridge, aka the U.K. government’s plan for what will happen in the days after the death of the queen. Here’s an overview of the carefully constructed plans for what happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies.
“London Bridge is down”
In the hours after the queen’s death, a “call cascade” will inform the prime minister, the cabinet secretary (Britain’s highest-ranking civil servant) and a number of the most senior ministers and officials of the news. The phrase “London Bridge is down” is expected to be used to communicate the queen’s death.
Then the royal household will issue an official notification delivering the news to the public. After that the prime minister will be the first member of the government to make a statement. Naturally, today’s communication plans focus on social media, and all important players have the wording of these tweets already drafted. Retweets from all government departmental social media pages are explicitly banned unless cleared by the central government head of communications. All other members of the government will be instructed not to comment until after the prime minister has spoken.
The royal family’s website will change to a black holding page with a short statement confirming the queen’s death. The royal family will then announce plans for the queen’s funeral, which is expected to be held 10 days following her death.
Leading up to the funeral, the queen will lie in state at the Palace of Westminster for three days. Her coffin will be open to the public for 23 hours per day.
The day of the state funeral will be a “Day of National Mourning,” which will effectively be a bank holiday (although it will not be named this directly). Politico explains that if the funeral falls on the weekend or an existing bank holiday, an extra bank holiday will not be granted. If the funeral falls on a weekday, the government does not plan to order employers to give employees the day off.
On the day of the funeral, there will be a two minutes’ silence across the U.K. at midday. The state funeral itself will be held at Westminster Abbey, with processions taking place in London and Windsor. There will be a service in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and the queen will be buried in the castle’s King George VI Memorial Chapel.
Succession to the throne
Charles, Prince of Wales, 73, is the heir apparent to the British throne as the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II. At 10 a.m. on the day after the queen’s death, he is expected to become King Charles III.
When Prince Charles becomes King, his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will not become Queen. As the wife of the King, her technical title will be the Queen Consort. This means Camilla will not share the king’s sovereignty or his political and military powers. According to the Royal Family website, the royal line of succession is “regulated not only through descent, but also by Parliamentary statute.”
Next in line after Charles is his eldest son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. He becomes Duke of Cornwall when Charles becomes king, and will be invested (aka formally named) as Prince of Wales.
As the new king, Charles will address the nation on the evening of the queen’s death. He’ll then embark on a four-nation tour through England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
The monarchy will endure…but should it?
There are always incredibly detailed plans in place for what happens following the death of leading royals. Operation London Bridge attempts to account for every little protocol, consequence, and quirk in the aftermath of queen’s death. For instance, instead of “God Save the Queen,” the wording of the national anthem will be changed to “God Save the King.”
Sure, that doesn’t have the same ring to it—but maybe the phrase should be taken out of the national anthem altogether. Many are pointing out this is the perfect opportunity to abolish the British monarchy once and for all. Given the antiquated, should-be-unfathomable levels of privilege and inequality that keep the royals “royal,” I can’t help but agree.
Read the full article here