In September 2021, the top secret plan that will be enacted when Queen Elizabeth dies was leaked in a memo obtained by POLITICO. The revelation spurred fury in Buckingham Palace and prompted Britain’s Cabinet Office to launch an investigation into who leaked the paperwork just days later. Here, MailOnline outlines what was discovered in the leak – and what will happen when the world’s longest-reigning female monarch in history passes, as set forth in ‘Operation London Bridge’.
The plan for the Queen’s death, ‘Operation London Bridge’ was first hatched in the 1960s, but had never been published in such granular detail until it was leaked to POLITICO. Before its leak, ‘Operation London Bridge’ was only shared with a small group of people. It’s release, however, revealed that as soon as the Queen dies, all Whitehall flags must be lowered to half mast within ten minutes followed by a TV address and UK tour by Prince Charles and a pre-planned memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral for ministers that will be made to look ‘spontaneous’. The Royal Family’s website will also be replaced with an all-black page with a short statement confirming Her Majesty’s death, and all GOV.UK websites will have a black banner added. Each day following Her Majesty’s passing will be denoted as D-Day (the day she passes) and D+1, D+2, etc. for subsequent days.
D-DAY: The Prime Minister will be informed by phone call and message that the Queen is dead. It is not clear if the code: ‘London Bridge has fallen’ will be used by Buckingham Palace, but this has been the rumor since the plan was first drawn up in the 1960s.
A ‘call cascade’ will begin, informing politicians and civil servant s in order of seniority, starting with the cabinet, the cabinet secretary and the Privy Council. There is a script that should not be diverted from, with the individual being told: ‘We have just been informed of the death of Her Majesty The Queen. Dscretion is required’. The call will then be ended. Only then will an ‘official notification’ delivering the news to the public -likely to be to the Press Association and the main UK broadcasters. It may also confirm plans for the Queen’s funeral, likely to be held 10 days following her death.
An email will also be sent to ministers and civil servants saying: ‘Dear colleagues, It is with sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Her Majesty The Queen’. Immediately all flags on Whitehall and across state buildings should be lowered to half mast. No 10 Downing Street has said it is concerned that they don’t have a full time ‘flag officer’, meaning there are certain hours of the day where the flag could be difficult to lower. A contractor could be used in those periods, documents say.
Parliament will be recalled the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will adjourn. The Royal Family’s official website will turn black with a short announcement confirming the Queen’s death. Government websites will also be turned black with special, already designed banners. Official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts will also turn black and all tweets paused other than those already agreed – but there will be silence until the Prime Minister at the time speaks publicly first.
The PM will speak in Downing Street on live TV to give the first tribute to Her Majesty. He or she will then go to see the new King, Prince Charles, who will address the nation himself at 6pm to coincide with the main evening news bulletins. The Prime Minister and the most senior cabinet ministers will then go to a service of remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral. Despite being pre-planned it should be made to look ‘spontaneous,’ according to the official documents leaked to POLITICO. Pictured: Britain’s current Prime Minister Boris Johnson on April 5, 2022.
D+1: At 10am the following day, the Accession Council – formed of all Privy Counsellors, Great Officers of State, the Lord Mayor and City Civic party, Realm High Commissioners and certain senior civil servants – will be convened at St James’s Palace (pictured), close to Buckingham Palace.
They will proclaim King Charles the new sovereign. All men will be expected to wear morning dress or lounge suits with black or dark ties. No medals or decorations can be worn. An official will be filmed reading the proclamation that Britain has a new monarch – simultaneously, the same message will be read at the Royal Exchange in the City of London, next to the Bank of England. At Midday, MPs will give tributes in the House of Commons, lead by the Prime Minister. And at 3:30pm, the Prime Minister and the cabinet will go to Buckingham Palace and meet with the new King Charles, but no spouses will be allowed.
D+2: Wherever the Queen’s body rests, it will now be returned to Buckingham Palace. Her coffin will be held in the Throne Room. There will be an altar, the pall, the Royal Standard, and four Grenadier Guards, their bearskin hats inclined, their rifles pointing to the floor, standing watch.
There are different plans depending on where the Queen was when she passes away. If she was at Sandringham in Norfolk (pictured in 1973), her body will be carried to London on the Royal Train – it will arrive at St Pancras Station in London, where her son Prince Charles, the PM and Cabinet Ministers will be waiting.
If Her Majesty is at Balmoral in Scotland (pictured), the Plan A, known as Operation Unicorn, will begin. The Royal Train will be sent to Aberdeenshire to convey her coffin back to London, again to St Pancras. If this is not possible, officials will switch to Operation Overstudy, meaning the coffin will be taken to London by plane from Aberdeen Airport. This is likely to land at London Heathrow or RAF Northolt.
Her Majesty spends most of her time at Windsor Castle (pictured in 2010), where she has been in a Covid bubble since the start of the pandemic. If she dies there, then her body will be moved to the capital by car. Another day of tributes in the House of Commons is expected as well as the devolved parliaments.
D+3: Three days following the Queen’s passing, the new King Charles will begin a tour of the UK. It will begin with a visit to Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament, where MPs will give a ‘motion of condolence’. His next stop will be Edinburgh to visit the Scottish parliament followed by a memorial service at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
D+4: King Charles will then fly to Northern Ireland, where members of the devolved parliament will give another motion of condolence, this time at Hillsborough Castle, the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the official residence of the monarch while in Northern Ireland. He will then attend a service at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.
Meanwhile, in London, the first rehearsal of the procession of the Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster via The Mall will take place, known as Operation Lion. Pictured: The Queen and the late Prince Philip travel around the track at the Royal Ascot in England in 1962.
D+5: The Queen will leave Buckingham Palace and carried to the Palace of Westminster to lie in state. The procession will be the first great military parade. Pictured: Prince Charles walks behind the Duke of Edinburgh on April 17, 2021.
A similar slow march for the Queen Mother in 2002 (pictured) involved 1,600 personnel and stretched for half a mile. The route is thought to hold around a million people. A memorial service will be held when she arrives.
D-DAY +6 to D-DAY +9 Three days of the Queen lying in state begins, called Operation Feather. Her coffin will sit on a dark catafalque – a decorated wooden framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state – to make it easier for the public filing through to see the coffin. The first people to visit will be VIPs, who will be given timed slots to pay their respects. Then, the public will be able to walk through with the room only close for one hour each day.
Meanwhile, Charles will fly to Wales for the final leg of his UK tour. He will visit the Welsh parliament before a memorial service at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. And there will be huge amounts of planning going on in the royal household and in Whitehall, especially ensuring heads of state, VIPs and dignitaries have arrangements to head to the UK for the funeral on Day 10.
The Department for Transport, Home Office and Border Force have plans in place for the number of Britons and foreign tourists expected to go to London in this period. Transport for London will also be involved to ensure Tube and bus provision is sufficient. More than a million people could arrive, meaning London’s hotels, public transport and public spaces will be ‘full’, one document says. Police leave will be likely be canceled, but there are concerns about the number of stewards required and where to find them.
D-DAY +10: The day of the Queen’s funeral. It will be a ‘Day of National Mourning’ – although will not be an official bank holiday. If it falls on a weekday, it will be left to employers to decide if staff can have the day off, but there will be no diktat ordering it.
Her Majesty will be moved to the state funeral held at Westminster Abbey, culminating in a two minutes’ silence across the nation at midday. She will then be taken to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where she will be buried in the King George VI Memorial Chapel next to her beloved husband Prince Philip.
It is not known when Prince Charles’s coronation will be held. But his mother, the Queen, was crowned 16 months after King George VI died. There has been speculation that Charles could choose to become King George VII – using his middle name as a tribute to his grandfather – but Clarence House said recently that ‘no decision has been made’. Pictured: Charles and Queen Elizabeth on July 31, 1967.