Long shrouded in secrecy, leaked documents have revealed the British government’s planning for the days following the death of the Queen Elizabeth II.
Codenamed “Operation London Bridge”, the documents obtained by Politico lay out “the full extent of the preparations undertaken by the Royal Family and the Cabinet Office’s BRIDGES Secretariat” in “granular detail”, providing the most comprehensive account so far about how the country will respond to the passing of its longest serving monarch.
While Queen Elizabeth II is said to be in fine health, she’s 95 and her death will be a seismic event in the U.K and around the world.
So, of course, there’s a plan for how the U.K. government will handle this historic moment, from the “call cascade” informing the prime minister and other top officials of the queen’s passing, to precise procedures for making social media announcements, to the logistics of the funeral at Westminster Abbey 10 days later.
For the first time ever, details of the plan, known as “Operation London Bridge” and first hatched in the 1960s, have been made public, courtesy of a leak to Politico.
The Daily Mail reports that Buckingham Palace insiders “are not happy” about the leak, and there “are major questions about how documents so sensitive could be made public.” The leak also includes details of “Operation Spring Tide,” the plan for Charles’ immediate accession to the throne, though not his coronation some months later.
One of the usual royal experts also expressed dismay. Angela Levin told the Daily Mail: “I think it is awful and cruel to release the top-secret plans about the Queen’s death. Where are our morals?”
On the other hand, the public probably has a right to know about what Politico calls “the extraordinary level of action required by all arms of the British state” over the 10 days between the queen’s death and her funeral.
The action includes “a vast security operation to manage unprecedented crowds and travel chaos” that could overwhelm London, leading to the city becoming “full” for the first time ever. The plan also includes discussion about how to deal with crowds if the COVID-19 pandemic still is a factor.
Here are some of the highlights of Operations London Bridge and Spring Tide, which Politico said range “from the banal to the ridiculous”:
D-Day: In the hours after the queen’s death, a “call cascade” will take place informing the prime minister, the cabinet secretary and a number of the most senior ministers and officials.
Calls and emails will go out to various departments, with permanent secretaries asked to use certain wording for how to break the news. “Dear colleagues, It is with sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Her Majesty The Queen,” one script reads. Within 10 minutes, flags across Whitehall should be lowered to half-staff.
“In a sign of the times, many of the immediate plans relate to social media,” Politico reported. The royal family’s website will change to a black holding page with a short statement confirming the queen’s death. The U.K. government’s website, and all government social media pages will show a black banner. “Non-urgent content must not be published,” and “retweets are explicitly banned unless cleared by the central government head of communications,” the plan reads.
The royal family will announce plans for the queen’s funeral, the prime minister will hold an audience with Charles, and the new king will deliver a broadcast to the nation at 6 p.m.
Over the next 10 days: The queen’s coffin will be brought to Buckingham Palace, and Charles will meet with top government ministers, who are to recognize him as king. He will then embark on a short tour of the U.K. with visits to the Scottish parliament, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The queen will then lie in state for three days at the Palace of Westminster, while the government becomes absorbed in planning for the funeral. The Foreign Office needs to arrange for the arrivals of heads of state and VIPs, while the Home Office must arrange security and deal with any concerns about an increased terror threat.
Politico reports that the Department for Transport has raised concerns about the crowds likely to descend on London, with one memo warning that hotels and restaurants, roads, public transportation, police, healthcare and basic services could be “stretched to the breaking point.”
Funeral: A day of national mourning will be declared, there will be a two minutes’ silence across the nation at midday, and processions will take place in London and Windsor. The queen is to be buried next to her late husband, Prince Philip, in Windsor Castle’s King George VI Memorial Chapel. – AFP/The Week/Evening Standard