Operation London Bridge—what happens when the Queen dies?

The Queen's funeral plans and how her death will be announced to the public in 'operation London Bridge'

operation london bridge
(Image credit: Getty)

'Operation London Bridge' details the explicit plans laid out for the day her majesty passes away, but what are those plans, and what will happen?

The Queen's recent spell of ill health has caused concerns for fans. The Queen missed Remembrance Sunday after she reportedly sprained her back. A few weeks before that the Queen also had an overnight hospital stay and reluctantly withdrew from royal engagements for a few weeks. 

To aid her recovery, the Queen has been staying in her royal residences in both Windsor Castle and Sandringham House and very little has been heard about Her Majesty.

For this reason, many fans are concerned about the Queen's health and what would happen if the Queen were to pass. A plan called 'Operation London Bridge' details how the UK would deal with the death of Her Majesty.

Politico (opens in new tab) publicized the plan, which has been a closely kept secret for many years in September 2021. Seemingly, the latest version of the plan has had a rejig owing to potential issues caused by the pandemic.

The Queen's funeral will be held 10 days after her passing. The Queen's death will be referred to as D-Day and the 10 days that follow will be referred to as D+1, D+2, and so on.

The Queen

(Image credit: Getty)

How will the public find out about the Queen's passing?

According to the operation, permanent secretaries will be instructed to follow a very particular script when telling their ministers the sad news.  "We have just been informed of the death of Her Majesty The Queen," is the official line, and they'll be told to maintain the utmost 'discretion.'

As well as this, ministers and senior civil servants will be emailed by the cabinet secretary. According to the leaked documents, the email will read, "Dear colleagues, It is with sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Her Majesty The Queen."

After this email is sent out, all of the flags across Whitehall will be lowered to half-mast, which they aim to do within 10 minutes.

A royal announcement will reportedly be made to PA Media and the BBC who will then broadcast the news. It is reported that BBC One will make the official announcement and BBC Two will cease airing.

The BBC will air a prerecorded series of portraits as the reporters change into black clothing that is on standby for such an occasion. It was reported by The Guardian (opens in new tab) that many other broadcasters have also prepared content for the Queen's death. 

"All news organizations will scramble to get films on air and obituaries online. At the Guardian, the deputy editor has a list of prepared stories pinned to his wall. The Times is said to have 11 days of coverage ready to go."

"At Sky News and ITN, which for years rehearsed the death of the Queen substituting the name 'Mrs Robinson', calls will go out to royal experts who have already signed contracts to speak exclusively on those channels," said The Guardian.

Who will make a speech about the Queen's death?

Prince Charles will address the nation on the sad day of his mother’s death, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (or his successor) will be the first member of the government to issue a statement. 

This will come after a 'call cascade' informing the prime minister, the Cabinet secretary, and a number of senior ministers and top governmental officials.

Where will the Queen's funeral happen?

Ahead of the funeral, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will meet the Queen's coffin at London St. Pancras station. Following this, the new King Charles is to embark on a tour of the UK ahead of his mother's funeral.

The royal's body will lie in state for three days at the Houses of Parliament and there are such enormous concerns over the volume of people who'll descend on the capital. As such, an enormous security plan is in place. 

One official memo in the operation mentions concerns that London could become 'full' for the first time ever—adding concerns that the city will be at gridlock, there will be policing and food shortages.

The Queen's state funeral will then take place at Westminster Abbey. There will be a two minutes’ silence across the nation at midday and processions will take place in London and Windsor.

Will there be a bank holiday when the Queen dies?

A 'Day of National Mourning' will take place on the day of the Queen's funeral, but this will not be called a 'bank holiday.'

This day will however be like a bank holiday in essence as it will be an opportunity for people to take a day away from work to pay their respects to Her Majesty and watch her funeral service and celebrate her life and long reign.

Where will the Queen be buried?

When Prince Philip died at the age of 99, Buckingham Palace made the announcement of his death.

"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."

The Duke of Edinburgh was then buried in the Royal Vault beneath St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Although Her Majesty's state funeral will be in London, the Queen will be buried in Windsor.

The Queen will be buried in the same vault as her late husband in the castle’s King George VI Memorial Chapel. This will take place on D-Day+10.

Has Operation London Bridge changes since it was leaked?

Due to the pandemic, plans for Prince Philip's funeral had to be altered in order to abide by Covid-19 rules. Similarly, decisions about Operation London Bridge may have been altered since the leak in September 2021. 

It is clear that the Queen's funeral will have various safety issues, and the huge number of people who will visit London at this time will also cause havoc for both the police and other officials. 

Therefore, plans for reacting to the Queen's death may have been changed slightly because of safety and security issues. 

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.