Home » What happens in the UK now the Queen has died? Operation London Bridge triggers 10 days of mourning

What happens in the UK now the Queen has died? Operation London Bridge triggers 10 days of mourning

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Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has died at the age of 96. Britain will now enter an official 10-day period of mourning. 

Her death, after 70 years on the throne, triggers a top-secret military-precision operation known as ‘London Bridge’ – kickstarting the formal protocols when the ruling British monarch passes away.

Announcing the monumental news, the British Broadcasting Corporation interrupted their newscasts and media was blacked out while Union flags across the nation were lowered to half staff in a show of respect to their longest-serving Monarch. 

In the U.S., flags in the White House and the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. will also be lowered to half staff. 

The Queen’s state funeral will be held at the historic Westminster Abbey in London on the last of the 10 days of mourning.

As preparations get under way for the funeral, the accession process for a new head of state begins immediately. 

Prince Charles, 73, is now effectively king although protocol dictates that he is proclaimed as the new monarch the day after the Queen’s death. 

This will take place at a meeting of the Accession Council, which usually gathers at St James’s Palace in London. The codename for King Charles’s accession to the throne is Operation Spring Tide.

Because Her Majesty died in Scotland at her beloved Balmoral Castle rather than in London or Windsor, the plan known as Operation Unicorn is rolling into action.

The protocol is part of the longstanding plans codenamed Operation London Bridge that were first hatched in the 1960s but have never been made officially public. 

This will see the Queen’s coffin be conveyed 103 miles from Balmoral Castle in to Edinburgh on a special train, where it is understood she will initially rest in state at the palace of Holyroodhouse. 

The coffin will then be transported to St Giles’ Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile where people will be able to pay their respects. 

Then follows Her Majesty’s final journey on the Royal Train, which will transport her back to Buckingham Palace in London for the remaining eight days of the official mourning period. 

Another contingency plan, codenamed Operation Overstudy will be triggered if the journey is to be made by air, most likely flying the coffin on an aircraft of the Queen’s Flight to RAF Brize Norton or RAF Northholt. 

An extraordinary level of action will now be required by all arms of the British state, including a vast security operation to manage the unprecedented crowds and travel chaos that could see, in the words of one official memo, London might even be declared ‘full’. 

Her Majesty's final public photo: The Queen, who has died at the age of 96, was photographed in the Drawing Room of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was meeting the newly appointed Prime Minister of Britain, Liz Truss

Her Majesty’s final public photo: The Queen, who has died at the age of 96, was photographed in the Drawing Room of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was meeting the newly appointed Prime Minister of Britain, Liz Truss

Tens of millions of people across the world will grieve the woman who provided stoic continuity as she saw Britain through the most monumental world events in living history, including 9/11, the Cold War, and the coronavirus pandemic. 

Her death ushers in the end of the second Elizabethan Era – a period in history where the Queen spearheaded an unwavering bond between the United Kingdom and the United States.

During her lifetime, she met 13 of the last 14 presidents, from Harry Truman in 1951 to Joe Biden in 2021. The only exception was Lyndon B. Johnson. 

The Queen died at Balmoral, the 50,000-acre country estate where she was ‘most happy’ and made special memories with her family and beloved late husband Prince Philip, who died aged 99 on April 9, 2021. 

A day after the Queen’s death, the Accession Council, a ceremonial body which assembles on the death of a monarch, will meet at St James’s Palace.

Close advisors, known as Privy Counsellors, Great Officers of State, who are ministers of the crown, as well as the Lord Mayor and City Civic party will join the meeting.

Also among the council are also High Commissioners of Commonwealth realms and certain senior civil servants in Britain.

It is at this meeting that that Britain will proclaim the new monarch – King Charles, formally the Prince of Wales.

The new line of succession to the throne of the United Kingdom following the Queen’s death. Prince Charles is now the King

D-Day – The official name given to the day the Queen died

The first person outside of Buckingham Palace to be told of the Queen’s death was Britain’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, in a phone call. 

Before the public were told via an ‘official notification’ that was sent to the main British broadcasters including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a ‘call cascade’ to members of the British Cabinet, the privy council and senior figures in the Armed Forces took place. 

According to the London Bridge plans, they will have been read a script that stated: ‘We have just been informed of the death of Her Majesty The Queen. Discretion is required’. 

Once the public was told, an email was set to 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.’

All flags on Whitehall in London and at state buildings nationwide have been or will be lowered to half staff. 

Parliament is also set to be recalled in the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The Royal Family’s official website has been turned black, with a short announcement confirming the Queen’s death. 

Government websites have also been changed and are displaying special, pre-designed banners. 

Official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts will also turn black and all tweets paused other than those already agreed. 

The Prime Minister will address the nation from Downing Street to deliver a tribute to Her Majesty.

The Prime Minister and the most senior Cabinet ministers will later attend a service of Remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Her Majesty stands on the Buckingham Palace balcony on the final day of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in early June 2022. It was her last appearance on the iconic balcony in London

Her Majesty stands on the Buckingham Palace balcony on the final day of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in early June 2022. It was her last appearance on the iconic balcony in London

A new portrait of the Queen released by The Royal Windsor Horse Show to mark the occasion of her 96th birthday this year

A new portrait of the Queen released by The Royal Windsor Horse Show to mark the occasion of her 96th birthday this year

D-Day +1 

10am

The Accession Council – which is 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 Buckingham Palace.

There, they will proclaim King Charles as the new sovereign, although he will have the option to change his name. 

He could select a ‘regnal’ name from his Christian or middle names, meaning he could become King Philip, Arthur or George instead of King Charles III. 

Charles will swear to ‘inviolably maintain and preserve the Settlement of the true Protestant Religion’ in Scotland, in an oath taken by every new monarch since George I in 1714. 

All men attending the ceremony will be expected to wear morning dress or lounge suits with black or dark ties. No medals or decorations can be worn. 

Prince William, 40, becomes the new heir to the throne. The line of succession changes to his children, Prince George, eight, Princess Charlotte, six, and Prince Louis, three, with William’s brother, Prince Harry, 37, after that.

Charles’s wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will officially become Queen Consort, after Queen Elizabeth II gave her seal of approval for this to be the case. 

The Accession Proclamation will be read aloud and signed, before it is read to the public at St James’s Palace and other cities including Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

A 41-gun salute will be fired in Hyde Park at the direction of the Council, lasting for nearly seven minutes. 

After that, the nation’s politicians will swear allegiance to the new ruler. 

At around midday, Members of Parliament will begin giving tributes in the House of Commons, led by the Prime Minister.

At around 3:30pm GMT, the PM and the Cabinet will go to Buckingham Palace for an audience with King Charles. No spouses will be allowed. 

The then Princess Elizabeth is seen above posing in a ballet outfit in 1932

The Queen makes her first Christmas broadcast in 1952, telling the people of the Commonwealth and Empire she would serve them 'all the days of my life'

The then Princess Elizabeth is seen above left posing in a ballet outfit in 1932, and right making her first Christmas broadcast in 1952

D-Day +2

The Queen’s death at Balmoral means that the most complicated scenario envisaged under ‘Operation London Bridge’ – the long-devised plans for her mourning and funeral – will now be put in place.

The passing of the Monarch in Scotland is covered under a contingency of London Bridge called Operation Unicorn.

It involves the immediate suspension of business at the Scottish Parliament and the Queen’s coffin will be transported from Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire to Edinburgh on a special train, where it is understood the Queen will initially rest in state at the palace of Holyroodhouse.

It is expected that the coffin will be transported to St Giles’ Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile where people will be allowed to pay their respects.

The next stage in the Queen’s journey to return to the side of her late beloved husband Prince Phillip, will either be by train from Waverley Station to London’s King’s Cross, or by air.

If the monarch’s body is to travel by train, provision is likely to be made for thousands of members of the public to pay their respect at suitable points along the journey along the East Coast mainline.

Another contingency plan, codenamed Operation Overstudy will be triggered if the journey is to be made by air, most likely flying the coffin on an aircraft of the Queen’s Flight to RAF Brize Norton or RAF Northholt.

Whether the coffin is borne by air or rail, it will be met by a reception committee of the Prime Minister and members of her Cabinet upon its arrival in London.

The Queen’s body will be taken to Buckingham Palace, where her coffin will be displayed 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.

New line of succession to the UK throne

  1. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge 
  2. Prince George 
  3. Princess Charlotte
  4. Prince Louis
  5. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
  6. Archie Mountbatten-Windsor
  7. Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor 
  8. Prince Andrew, Duke of York
  9. Princess Beatrice
  10. Sienna Mapelli Mozzi 
  11. Princess Eugenie
  12. August Brooksbank 
  13. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
  14. James, Viscount Severn
  15. Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
  16. Anne, Princess Royal
  17. Peter Phillips
  18. Savannah Phillips
  19. Isla Phillips
  20. Zara Tindall
  21. Mia Tindall 
  22. Lena Tindall
  23. Lucas Tindall 
  24. David Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon

D-Day +3

The new King Charles will begin a tour of the UK, which will start with a visit to Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament. 

There, Members of Parliament 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-Day +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.

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.

D-Day +5 

The Queen’s body will leave Buckingham Palace and be carried to the Palace of Westminster, London, to lie in state. 

The procession will be the first great military parade following Her Majesty’s death. 

A similar slow march for the Queen Mother in 2002 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.  

Day six to day nine

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.

Westminster Hall will be open to the public for 23 hours a day, but the first people to visit will be VIPs. They will be given timed slots to pay their respects.

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. 

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. It is believed that more than a million people could arrive. 

Day 10

Day 10 will be the Queen’s funeral. It will be a ‘Day of National Mourning’ – although will not be an official public holiday in Britain.

Her Majesty will be moved to the state funeral held at Westminster Abbey, culminating in a two minutes’ silence across Britain at midday. Some 2,000 people are expected to attend. 

When the coffin emerges again, the pallbearers will place it on the green gun carriage that was used for the Queen’s father, his father and his father’s father, and 138 junior sailors will drop their heads to their chests and pull.

This is a tradition that began at Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901 when the horses threatened to bolt at Windsor Station and a waiting contingent of ratings stepped in to pull the coffin instead.

The procession will then swing on to the Mall. From Hyde Park Corner, the hearse will go 23 miles by road to Windsor Castle, which claims the bodies of British sovereigns. The Royal household will be waiting for her, standing on the grass. 

Inside the St George’s Chapel, the lift to the royal vault will descend, and King Charles will drop a handful of red earth from a silver bowl. 

Her Majesty will be buried next to her beloved husband Prince Philip. 

It is not known when Prince Charles’ coronation will be held. But his mother the Queen was crowned 16 months after King George VI died.

The Queen and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for a banquet on October 23, 2016. Today, Charles is now King

The Queen and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for a banquet on October 23, 2016. Today, Charles is now King

The Queen and Price Philip laugh at a welcome for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Westminster on March 3, 2015

The Queen and Price Philip laugh at a welcome for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Westminster on March 3, 2015

The Queen Mother's state funeral on April 9, 2002. Here the congregation watches as pallbearers place her coffin on the catafalque in Westminster Abbey in London

The Queen Mother’s state funeral on April 9, 2002. Here the congregation watches as pallbearers place her coffin on the catafalque in Westminster Abbey in London

The hearse bearing the Queen Mother's coffin at Windsor Castle for her interment in 2002

 The hearse bearing the Queen Mother’s coffin at Windsor Castle for her interment in 2002

The royal standard at full staff flies over Windsor Castle on the hill below the coffin of King George VI followed by the carriage carrying the Queen following his death on February 6, 1952

The royal standard at full staff flies over Windsor Castle on the hill below the coffin of King George VI followed by the carriage carrying the Queen following his death on February 6, 1952

A royal procession through Norfolk following the death of King George V on January 20, 1936. When the Queen's coffin emerges from Westminster Abbey will be placed a green gun carriage used by her father and his father

A royal procession through Norfolk following the death of King George V on January 20, 1936. When the Queen’s coffin emerges from Westminster Abbey will be placed a green gun carriage used by her father and his father

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