What happens next after Queen Elizabeth’s death? Operation London Bridge is in motion, from Buckingham Palace’s funeral plans to King Charles’ succession

Queen Elizabeth has died “peacefully” on September 8 after 70 years of reigning the British throne. Photo: PA

Operation London Bridge, first devised in the 1960s, is the official plan for what comes next in the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies after the death of the monarch, Queen Elizabeth.

On September 8, Britain’s longest reigning monarch passed away “peacefully” at age 96, in the Scottish estate Balmoral Castle where she spent most of the summer.

But what happened next?

Day 0 (D-Day)

Queen Elizabeth looks on during a visit to officially open the new building at Thames Hospice, Maidenhead, England, on July 15. Photo: AP

The moment the queen passed, the monarch’s private secretary, currently Edward Young, was the first person to transmit the news to Prime Minister Liz Truss (apart from her family relatives and medical team), using the code phrase “London Bridge is down” – over secure telephone lines, of course.

The news was then relayed to ministers and senior civil servants, as well as the 14 other countries over which Queen Elizabeth reigned. According to The Guardian, all government websites and social media accounts, including the royal family’s website, will reflect black banners, and the publication of non-urgent content must be avoided.

Notifying the media – and the world

An old newspaper clipping sharing news on the death of a royal family member. Photo: SCMP Archives

The media was notified by the BBC’s emergency Radio Alert Transmission System. According to The Guardian, the corporation’s official guidelines on the handling of events such as a Category A royal death contains a sentence in bold capital letters and heavily underlined: “The BBC will honour any such embargo, regardless of what other broadcasters may do.”

The BBC may already be aware that a senior royal has died for some time before the palace wishes to confirm the death.

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Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Cypher is projected on the Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings, after her passing, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on September 8. Photo: Reuters

“Blue obit lights” are cited in the plans, according to The Guardian, to signify to presenters already on air at the time of the announcement to play “inoffensive music”.

BBC suspended all its regular programming and replaced it with news coverage of the queen’s health leading up to her death. The British broadcasting service prepared pre-recorded sequences to be flighted, while presenters wore formal dark attire for the live announcements.

People gather outside Buckingham Palace following the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth, in London, on September 8. Photo: AP

The Times reportedly has 11 days of pre-prepared content on standby, while The Guardian has stories pinned on the wall at the ready. Channels ITN and Sky News reportedly rehearsed the queen’s death extensively before its announcement, substituting the monarch’s name for “Mrs Robinson”.

Buckingham Palace

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth waits in the Drawing Room to receive Liz Truss for an audience, where she invited the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party to become prime minister and form a new government, at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, Britain, on September 6. Photo: Reuters
At Buckingham Palace, a black-lined notice was pinned to the gates, informing the public of the passing of the sovereign. Crowds of mourners gathered outside the royal estate. The palace website reflects the same notice.
Tourists stand in the rain outside Buckingham Palace in London, Britain, mourning the loss of the nation’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth, on September 8. Photo: EPA-EFE
The new monarch, Charles, who was invested as the heir to the throne as the Prince of Wales on July 1, 1969, will convene a meeting with Prime Minister Truss to facilitate the Proclamation of Accession, and they are expected to address the nation via television and radio on September 9, though it has not been confirmed yet by Buckingham Palace.

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King Charles ascended the British throne after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. Photo: SCMP Archives

Poignantly, parliamentary ceremonial ornaments, such as maces and council chains, will be placed in black purses. Gun salutes will take place at saluting stations and a service of remembrance, to be attended by the prime minister and other senior ministers, will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on September 9, per Sky News. The gatherings will begin around noon, UK time. It’s expected that the mourning will last around 12 days in Britain, from now until the day after the queen’s funeral, but the government is yet to announce exact proceedings.

The funeral

Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest reigning monarch and a symbol of stability in a turbulent era for her country and the world, died on September 8, after 70 years on the throne. Photo: AP

Different arrangements for the transportation of Queen Elizabeth’s coffin were planned in advance, dependent on the location of her death.

In 1977, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, dressed in royal regalia, posed for this special Jubilee picture in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace, after she delivered the traditional queen’s speech. Photo: AFP

Since she died in Scotland, the coffin will return to London and lie in state in Westminster Hall for around four days before her funeral, allowing members of the public to see her, per BBC. The coffin, which will be draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown rested upon it, will sit on a raised platform and will be guarded by royal soldiers.

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Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, with Prince Charles, front, as the family members leave the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, in March 2020. Photo: AP
Although the exact details are to be confirmed, it’s expected that the queen’s funeral will take place in Westminster Abbey within the coming two weeks, according to the BBC. This is the same place she had her coronation in 1953, and where she married Prince Philip in 1947.
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  • Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest reigning monarch of 70 years, died ‘peacefully’ at 96, in the Scottish estate of Balmoral on September 8 – so what happens next?
  • Operation London Bridge has been planned for years in case of the death of a royal, with BBC suspending its programmes to gun salutes in honour of the monarch