Inside the Secret Plan for the Days Following the Queen of England’s Death

Thanks to the popular TV series The Crown, us “commoners” have gotten an inside glimpse at what happens when a member of the royal family dies. But the show’s portrayal really only scratches the surface. In fact, there is a whole plan in place for the days following the passing of a monarch. And with Queen Elizabeth into her 90s, curiosity about this process has surfaced.

Here’s the secret plan for the days following the queen’s death, and why her passing will be so different from others. (For that interesting tidbit, check out Page 13.)

For starters: The years of planning

St Edward's Crown

Planning began years ago. | Jack Hill – WPA Pool /Getty Images

In 2017, the Guardian did a deep dive into what happens in the event that a member of the royal family passes away. The article reveals that there are a few different versions of what events will transpire if and when the queen passes. These lists of events have also been put into play for years already, and are practiced on a regular basis to ensure that everything goes perfectly when the monarch passes.

Next: Here’s why so few people know about these plans

The code name

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves number 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Theresa May or her successor will be among the first to know. | Leon Neal/Getty Images

To keep these secret plans well under wraps, protocol for a royal’s passing is given a code name. This is put in place to keep the news of the death from being heard on switchboards or leaking to the wrong outlet before Buckingham Palace can make a formal announcement. For Queen Elizabeth, the plans and their committee are called “London Bridge.” So, in the event of her passing, a secure call will be placed to the prime minister to say that “London Bridge is down.”

Next: Here’s what may transpire before that call to the PM is made

If things go according to plan…

Buckingham Palace Aerial View

Planners are hoping the queen dies peacefully at the palace. | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The Guardian reveals that plans surrounding the queen’s immediate planning revolve around her passing after a short illness. Her physician will be in charge of who has access to her room and what information is allowed to be released to the public. If everything “goes according to plan” the queen will pass with her family there.

Next: But things don’t always pan out that way

How the process can be altered

Balmoral Castle on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Balmoral Castle on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the queen will die according to a set of plans, no matter how many years they have been put into place. In the event that passes somewhere other than Buckingham Palace, her body will have to be transported back to London. If she passes at Balmoral in Scotland — where she spends a few months out of every year — her death will be followed by days of Scottish ritual before returning to Buckingham Palace.

Next: In any event, after the queen dies …

Who is in charge?

TRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, in their role as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, take time out from their honeymoon at Birkhall on the Queen's Aberdeenshire estate, to undertake their first joint official engagement opening Monaltrie Park children's playground in Ballater near Balmoral on April 14, 2005 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

TRH Prince Charles is next in the line of succession. | Getty Images

Following Queen Elizabeth’s passing, the new monarch and Duke of Norfolk make all the decisions. Prince Charles — who will then become king — will make detailed decisions in the hours following his mother’s death. This includes making his first public speech as sovereign on the evening of her death. The 18th Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal, is tasked with overseeing the funeral.

Who will know first?

British parliament

Government figures will know before the public does. | Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

According to the Guardian, “governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first” of the queen’s death. They then prepare to make statements regarding the her passing before the news can get out to the news outlets and the rest of the world. They will also dawn a black armband as a symbol of mourning.

Next: And then, the word gets out

How the news gets out

Buckingham Palace

The public around the world will know at the same time. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, will be tasked with getting the news out by private channel. Then, the announcement of her death will go out to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media in one fell swoop. News outlets will put together obit video montages and other packaged news stories to coordinate with the event. BBC One will display her portrait and play the national anthem, Express tells us.

Next: But what if people aren’t already tuned into the television?

Radio music

Expect the BBC to take the lead on reporting the story. | Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

As Vulture explains, the UK’s radio stations have set lists of music specifically for major events like a national disaster or, in this instance, the death of a royal. Radio DJ’s receive the news via “obit lights” which flash blue to signal the change in music.

Next: Meanwhile, back on the TV front …

Proper speech and attire

The royals and other officials will wear black, like they did after Princess Diana died. | Jeff J. Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images

News agencies occasionally rehearse how to handle the death of the monarch, down to what exact words are said and what they wear. There is a pre-written address to be delivered when the outlet first acknowledges that the queen has passed. Like with the armband, newscasters will sport all black to symbolize the country is in mourning.

Next: If you think this sounds speedy and streamlined, you aren’t alone

News speed in the past

Queen Elizabeth II

Despite all the steps, expect the world to know within minutes. | Michael Ukas /Pool /Getty Images

Thanks to modern technology, word of Queen Elizabeth’s death will reach dignitaries, news outlets, and the masses much faster than it did for any royal before her. When her father King George IV passed away, the Guardian reveals, it was nearly four hours after his death that the BBC reported on it. When Princess Diana died, on the other hand, journalists accompanying her press secretary learned within 15 minutes. For Queen Elizabeth, that window of time could shrink even less.

Next: Where tradition and technology collide

The gate, and social media

Man working late at night

The news will spread around the world incredibly quickly. | Cofotoisme/iStock/Getty Images

When the queen dies, the internet is probably going to go into overdrive because of all the tweets and breaking news blurbs surrounding the event. But that won’t stop Buckingham Palace from upholding tradition. At the same time that the news outlets learn of her passing, a footman will attach a black-rimmed notice to the palace gates announcing the news. (And since it’s the 21st century, Buckingham Palace’s website will change to reveal the same message.)

Next: The main event

The funeral itself

The funeral will be a very public event. | Wolfgang Rattay/AFP/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral will be held 12 days after her initial passing. A few days before the funeral, there will be a public viewing at Westminster Hall for the public to pay their respects. The Vigil of Princes takes place the day before the funeral, at which time the males in the royal family stand guard of her coffin for a short period of time. Lastly, there is a funeral procession through London, before her body will be laid to rest.

Next: An interesting fact

Why the queen’s death will be different

Queen Elizabeth II toasts US President George W. Bush after remarks at the start of a White House State Dinner for the British monarch and Prince Philip 07 May 2007 in Washington, DC.

Elizabeth is the longest-serving monarch in British history. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is expected to be the biggest in state history, and for good reason. She is the longest-standing monarch, and has lived through a great deal of change both in her home country and abroad. She has outlived officers who have served under her, as well as a dozen U.S. presidents and other foreign leaders. The Guardian acknowledges that while Winston Churchill’s death in 1965 was regarded as the end of an era, the end of this “Elizabethan era” will actually be greater.

Next: Even with a plan in place, it’s fair to ask …

Do these plans ever change?

the british crown from the back

The plans have had to update with the changing times. | Suzanne Plunkett /WPA Pool/Getty Images

Even though plans for Elizabeth’s funeral have been in place for decades, they have been subject to change on multiple occasions. Steps and protocols have been updated with the changing times, and addenda have been made to accommodate different scenarios for her passing.

Next: Final question …

What happens next for the monarchy?

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 12, 2018 in London, England.

Whatever happens, succession will be messy. | Paul Grover – Pool/Getty Images

Shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral will be Prince Charles’ coronation, and he will take the throne. This event has been causing debate for years, since Charles has a low approval rating both with the masses and within his own family. (His own siblings are fighting him for the throne as we speak.) There will no doubt be backlash from critics, especially those who think that abdicate the throne so his popular eldest son, Prince William, can take the throne.

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