Inside the Code Word System Used for a Royal Family Death

A royal family death requires specific protocol, and that’s especially true for Queen Elizabeth’s death. There are plans in place for how to make the announcement to the public and how the succession of power will occur. The British royal family has even designed a code word system for a member’s death. Here’s a closer look at that system and what code names they use for the various members of the royal family. 

Queen Elizabeth II dressed in black
Queen Elizabeth II | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

What happens when a royal family member dies? 

A code word system is in place for when there is a royal family member death or emergency. That way, those who need to know about it before the public at large — i.e., other family members, staff, etc. — can receive information without causing a massive public disruption.

Cosmopolitan outlined the royal family’s code word system. Each family member has a name of a bridge applied to them, and there are specific phrases to use to speak about certain events. For instance, Prince Philip’s death was referred to as “Operation Forth Bridge.”

Due to its vast impact, Queen Elizabeth’s death had lots of protocol in place. The queen had her funeral arrangements set for decades, and the royal family even went through rehearsals of the plan.

The code word for Queen Elizabeth’s death

It should come as no surprise that the bridge used to signify Queen Elizabeth’s death is the most significant bridge in the country: “Operation London Bridge.” Specifically, the phrase “London Bridge is down” was put in place to alert family and staff that the queen had died and protocol was in action.

There also was code for if Queen Elizabeth died in Scotland: “Operation Unicorn.” On Sept. 8, 2022, the queen died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, so this would have been the phrase used. According to protocol, her coffin would be transported to St. Giles’ Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile before a train would return the queen to London.

That wasn’t the only code name for Queen Elizabeth. When being moved about in public, her handlers referred to Queen Elizabeth as simply “Sharon.” This was for her safety and to avoid the public having any undue knowledge of her whereabouts. Often, they would shorten this to “S” to be even more discreet. 

The code word for King Charles’ death

The new monarch, King Charles III, has a death code word that’s unsurprisingly also a bridge: “Operation Menai Bridge.” It’s a Welsh suspension bridge, which fit his title as Prince of Wales.

Charles’ death also has specific protocol in place. Likewise, there are solid plans for his eventual coronation with rehearsals already having occurred. Charles’ coronation even has its own code word: “Operation Golden Orb.”

The code words for Harry, Meghan, William, and Kate

There are no royal family death code words for the younger generation of royals, but they still have code names for when they’re in public.

Prince William and Kate Middleton are referred to as Danny Collins and Daphne Clark. Much like Queen Elizabeth being called Sharon, this is so people aren’t aware the couple is on the move or in the area. The initials “DC” of the code names correspond with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s code names are David Stevens and Davina Scott, though it’s unclear how much they still use them since they stepped back from being working royals.

Handling the royal family can’t be an easy task. But with these code names in place, a royal family member’s death or emergency can at least be managed without the public catching wind of it.

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