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 is England's longest-reigning monarch — she acceded to the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952, and is still going strong over 60 years later. Unfortunately, the queen is not immortal, and her death will send her country spiraling into a period of mourning and immense change. So what exactly will happen inside and outside Buckingham Palace when England's beloved queen dies?
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.
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 when Elizabeth II dies, making her son, Prince Charles, king. Some believe the monarchy should skip a generation, passing over Prince Charles for his son, Prince William. However, there is no chance this will happen, meaning as long as Charles outlives his mother, he will become king immediately upon her death.
The first moves toward informing the public will be made by Sir Christopher Geidt, Elizabeth II's private secretary. Geidt will call the Prime Minister, who will then spread the news to the 15 other countries of which Elizabeth II is head of state, as well as the 36 other nations in the Commonwealth, including Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
Only after all the countries have been officially informed will the news of the queen's passing be made public — but even then there will be numerous steps to follow.
After the queen's secretary and the Prime Minister are alerted, and the information is spread to the other Commonwealth countries, it's time for the public to be told that their monarch is dead. Obviously, by this point rumors will have more than certainly begun to spread, but the news isn't considered official until a note is pinned to the gates of Buckingham Palace. Yes, the official notice comes in the form of a written note physically put on the palace gates.
A footman dressed in mourning gear completes the task, and only then can the online part of "London Bridge" begin. The palace website will change to a single black page with only the news of the queen's death. The Press Association will be notified, and the statement will be published online and in print all over the world.
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 code name for Queen Elizabeth II's death remained top secret - until recently.
The codename is now widely believed to be "London Bridge." The phrase "London Bridge is down" will be said to convey the news of her passing. The code name will only be said on secure lines, to prevent others from finding out before protocol dictates.