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08th Sep 2022

Operation London Bridge: What is the protocol that plays out following the monarch’s death?

Jack Peat

A series of carefully constructed plans will be triggered 

The Queen is under medical supervision at Balmoral after doctors became concerned for her health, Buckingham Palace has said.

It announced in a statement: “Following further evaluation this morning, The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. “The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.”

Concerns surrounding the Queen’s health have heightened in recent days and months.

She pulled out of a virtual Privy Council on Wednesday, a day after appointing Liz Truss as PM at her home in the Scottish Highlands, and was said to be left feeling “very tired and exhausted” following a bout of Covid-19.

Preparation for the handling of the passing of a head of state, particularly when it comes to notifying key public figures and the public, is carefully planned in advance.

In a series of documents obtained by POLITICO last year, the security plan is outlined in full, detailing everything from how news of the monarch’s death will be shared to the public to how quickly Prince Charles will ascend the throne.

Operation London Bridge, as it is known, suggests that a “call cascade” will take place hours after the monarch’s death to inform the prime minister, the cabinet secretary, and several senior ministers and government officials.

An email will then be sent out, at which point flags across Whitehall will be lowered to half-mast.

The public will be told by an “official notification” delivered by the royal household, the documents state, pilots will also inform passengers on flights if the news is announced when they are in the air.

Historically, the BBC has always been told about royal deaths ahead of other media outlets.

However, nowadays it is common for major announcements to go out to the world’s media at once via a news agency such as the Press Association.

The UK Parliament will adjourn, as will devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the Prime Minister will make a statment.

MPs will offer tributes to the Queen in the House of Commons the day after the Queen’s death. Parliamentary business will be suspended for 10 days.

Prince Charles will be expected to ascend to the throne the day after the Queen’s death, with the Accession Council meeting at St James’ Palace to proclaim Prince Charles the new sovereign.

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