The public is fascinated by the members of the British royal family, but none so much as the head of the family, the Queen of England. Queen Elizabeth II was England's longest-reigning monarch - she acceded to the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952, and reigned until her death on September 8, 2022, at age 96. Her death will send her country spiraling into a period of mourning and immense change. So what exactly is happening inside and outside Buckingham Palace now that England's beloved queen has died?
It was once considered treason to speak of a monarch's potential death, a crime punishable by death. Luckily, planning for a monarch's demise is no longer seen as blasphemous, but necessary, and the plans for Queen Elizabeth II's passing are intricate, meticulous, and even rehearsed. The protocol for the country, codenamed "London Bridge," involves 12 days of mourning, very specific public announcements, and a new monarch.
Prince Charles Became King The Moment Elizabeth II Died
Princess Elizabeth was only 26 when her father died and she immediately became Queen Elizabeth II. Her official coronation came about a year later, but the moment King George VI died, Elizabeth became Queen of England.
The tradition will continue now that Elizabeth II has died, making her son, Prince Charles, king. Some monarchs choose to change their name, but in the day of her death, it was announced that Prince Charles would now be known as King Charles III.
Charles will officially be proclaimed king at a meeting of the Accession Council, with the proclamation read at St. James's Palace and the Royal Exchange in London.
The Queen's Private Secretary Was Tasked With Breaking The News
The first moves toward informing the public was made by Sir Edward Young, Elizabeth's private secretary. Young called the newly elected prime minister, Liz Truss, who then spread the news to the 15 other countries of which Elizabeth II is head of state, as well as the other nations in the Commonwealth, including Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
The News Wasn't 'Official' Until Buckingham Palace Pinned A Literal Note To The Palace Gates
After the queen's secretary and the prime minister were alerted, and the information was spread to the other Commonwealth countries, it was time for the public to be told that their monarch is dead. The news wasn't considered official until a note was pinned to the gates of Buckingham Palace.
A footman dressed in mourning gear completed the task, and only then could the online part of "London Bridge" begin. The palace website changed to a single black page with only the news of the queen's death. The Press Association was notified, and the statement was published online and in print all over the world.
The Codename For The Plans For The Queen's Death Had Been A Secret For Years
The protocol surrounding a monarch's death has always been discussed using code names. George VI's death was "Hyde Park Corner," and the Queen Mother's funeral plans were "Operation Tay Bridge." The codename for Queen Elizabeth II's death remained top secret until recent years.
The codename is believed to be "London Bridge." The phrase "London Bridge is down" was used to convey the news of her passing.
Plans Were In Place If The Queen Died Outside London
The detailed protocol for Elizabeth II's death heavily relied on the queen dying in London. Things can go a bit haywire if there aren't precise rules to follow, which is why nearly every single event was accounted for. If the queen had died abroad, a royal jet would have chartered a royal coffin and royal undertakers.
Because she died in Scotland, where she had been living at her Balmoral residence at the time of her passing, the process gets even more complicated, and “Operation Unicorn” will take place. A full Scottish ritual will likely take place at the Scottish royal palace, Holyroodhouse, followed by a procession to St. Giles’s Cathedral. Then the queen's body will be taken back to London via train. Her body will eventually reach Buckingham Palace.
Television And Radio Reporters Know Exactly What To Say, And Even Rehearsed It
The press didn't go blindly into coverage of the queen's death - on the contrary, most of those covering her death were well-practiced in what to say and when to say it. The most basic rule is that newscasters will wear black, and Radio 4 will begin its broadcast with the somber words: "This is the BBC from London." Deeper than that, individual radio, television, and print reporters know what they are going to say. The Times allegedly has over a week's worth of coverage already prepared. Every radio station has two playlists of sad music prepared in case the country goes into a state of mourning. Some news channels have been preparing for years.
The idea of rehearsing for a monarch's death is nothing new to Britain, though - Queen Victoria detailed the contents of her own coffin as early as 1875; the Queen Mother's funeral was planned for 22 years; and the last Viceroy of India wrote the menu for his own funeral lunch (a winter and a summer menu, just in case).