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Queen Elizabeth II | 1926-2022

Operation London Bridge | What is planned over the next 10 days?

While King Charles III will accede to the throne through a ceremony on Friday, his coronation remains months away

September 09, 2022 12:19 pm | Updated 06:25 pm IST

An image of Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the nation’s figurehead for seven decades, is seen at Piccadilly Circus after she died aged 96, according to Buckingham Palace, in London, on September 8, 2022.

An image of Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the nation’s figurehead for seven decades, is seen at Piccadilly Circus after she died aged 96, according to Buckingham Palace, in London, on September 8, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch of Britain, died on September 8 at the age of 96, at her Scottish estate, Balmoral Castle. The end of her 70-year reign set in motion an elaborate plan for the next 10 days, honed clandestinely for decades but only reported first in 2017 by The Guardian and then Politico in 2021.

The protocol, including planned ceremonial and political events and the succession of the throne, is known as Operation London Bridge. The elaborate plan also considered the possibility of the Queen’s death in Scotland, at the Balmoral, the retreat which is long considered one of her favourate places; this plan is known as “Operation Unicorn”.

Also read | Queen Elizabeth II: World reacts to death of monarch | Live updates

The part of the drill that already took place on September 8 included first communicating the news of the death to the Prime Minister, Liz Truss, by the Queen’s Private Secretary. As planned, the news was then sent to the 14 commonwealth countries where the Queen was Head of State, and to the other 38 nations of the Commonwealth.

With her death, her eldest son Charles, the former Prince of Wales, immediately became monarch and will lead the country in mourning as the new King. He will be known as King Charles III.

Day one

On the day after D-day, King Charles III is expected to return to London from Balmoral and address his new subjects in a pre-recorded inaugural broadcast. Also on Friday, the new king is due to hold his first audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was only appointed on Tuesday in one of the queen’s last ceremonial acts before her death. He will also meet officials to decide on funeral plans and the length of the royal household’s period of mourning, which is expected to last a month.

A “spontaneous” Service of Remembrance, in the presence of the Prime Minister and a small number of ministers is also due to take place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The Parliament will pay tributes to the Queen in the House of Commons and all parliamentary business will be suspended for 10 days.

Day two

As part of Operation Spring Tide – the codename Charles’ succession to the throne as King Charles III, he is due to meet the Accession Council, a group of senior officials and privy counsellors, that proclaims King Charles as the new sovereign, at St. James’s Palace. A proclamation will additionally be read at the Royal Exchange. This ceremony is different from the coronation, which is due to take place months later. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation had taken place 16 months after King George VI’s death. According to The Guardian, Flags in Britain will be at full mast for the Accession ceremony and would remain like that for another day before coming back to half-mast.

Charles’ wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will be known as Queen Consort — a title that came with Queen Elizabeth II’s blessing after years of contention.

The Queen’s coffin, is expected to to leave the Balmoral in Scotland and reach the Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh to lie at rest in the throne room. A service, attended by the Royal Family would be held at the St. Giles’ Cathedral, which will be open for public for a day, after the service.

The coffin will then be flown to London, where it will be received by the prime minister and members of her Cabinet. It will then be kept in the throne room at the Buckingham Palace.

The following week

The new king will start off his tour of the United Kingdom, beginning at the Westminster Hall, where Members of Parliament will give him a “Motion of Condolence”. He will then head to the home nations of the UK, starting with Northern Ireland, and culminating in Wales. He will receive a short ceremony in both places, and will attend prayer services at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast and Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, respectively.

Rehearsals will be held for the procession and parade that will transfer the Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster via a ceremonial route. Once the coffin arrives at the palace, a big memorial service, a prelude to the state Funeral on Day 10, will be held.

After this, the coffin will lie in state for five days, when the Westminster Hall will be open for the public to pay their respects.

The new king will receive all the royal families on the eve of the funeral. The ceremony will be held on the tenth day at Westminster Abbey and is considered the national day of mourning for Britain. The hour-long ceremony will culminate in two minutes of silence across the nation. Post the funeral, the coffin will take a ceremonial route to Hyde Park, from where it will be carried on the state hearse to the Windsor, as per The Guardian. After a committal service at St. George Chapel, the coffin will then be lowered into the Royal Vault.

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