What happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies: Inside 'Operation London Bridge'

The secret plans have been exposed...

(Image credit: Getty Images Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images 478294780)

The secret plans have been exposed...

Additional words by Jadie Troy-Pryde

Update: Buckingham Palace announced the sad news and death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8th September 2022. Her Majesty is the longest reigning Monarch, having served for 70 years. Here, we look at what the official procedure that will happen when Queen Elizabeth II dies will be. 

Queen Elizabeth has been doing her job for 70 years, recently celebrating her Platinum Jubilee. She is the longest reigning monarch we've ever had, even surpassing her grandma, Queen Victoria, who previously held the title.

With the Queen Mother living to the ripe old age of 102, we hoped Queen Elizabeth would follow suit. Following the official news from Buckingham Palace on her passing, we look at what will happen now she has passed away?

Speculation had mounted around her health since her recent hospitalisation and her following absence from the Remembrance Day service. And according to The Guardian, this is the plan for the sad time when we have to say goodbye.

What will happen when Queen Elizabeth II dies? What is 'Operation London Bridge':

The procedure that will follow is reportedly known as 'Operation London Bridge'.

The said operation was leaked a few years ago, with journalist Sam Knight giving a detailed account of everything that will follow.

It revealed that the Queen's private secretary will be the first official to hear the news, and he will proceed to alert the Prime Minister that 'London Bridge is down'.

Following this, the Foreign Office will pass the news to the 36 other countries in the Commonwealth, before alerting the various governor generals, ambassadors and prime ministers across the world, and soon afterwards the media will receive the news so that they can begin to alert the general public.

According to Knight, 'a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.'

It was originally thought that King Charles III would make a speech to the nation on the same day that the Queen's death was announced, followed by a message from the Prime Minister. However, because the announcement came later in the day, the plans were shifted slightly.

Friday 9th September

King Charles III will return to London, and is expected to hold his first audience as monarch with Prime Minister Liz Truss.

1:00 pm: There will be a gun salute taking place in Hyde Park and other stations in honour of the Queen. There will be one round for every year of the Queen's life. At Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and Windsor Castle, bells are expected to toll.

6:00 pm: Charles will make his televised address to the nation, paying tribute to the Queen.

Media coverage is likely to last for days or weeks, with programming schedules interrupted and newsreaders wearing black as a mark of respect.

From here, Britain is officially in a period of mourning and this is likely to last for around 12 to 13 days, which Knight comments will be 'days of sorrow and spectacle'.

Saturday 10th September

10:00 am: Charles will reportedly become the King at 10am the following day, with Prince William and Kate Middleton's titles changing to Prince and Princess of Wales. However, Charles’s coronation will take a lot of planning, therefore it is unlikely to take place for a while.

Charles is expected to hold his first Privy Council, and will also hold an audience with the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.

The first public proclamation of the new sovereign is read in the open air from the Friary Court balcony at St James’s Palace by the Garter King of Arms. Then, proclamations are made across the country.

1:00 pm: Union flags go back up to full-mast and remain there for a day to coincide with the proclamations, before returning to half-mast.

Sunday 11th September

The Queen's coffin will be moved from Balmoral Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is in Edinburgh.

Monday 12th September

The Queen's coffin will then be transported to St Giles' Cathedral, and the public might get the chance to pay their respects.

Members of Parliament will come together for a Motion of Condolence, and King Charles III will then begin his tour of the UK, starting with Scotland and including Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tuesday 13th September

The Queen's coffin is expected to arrive in London, to be at rest at Buckingham Palace. The first rehearsal of the procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster will take place.

Wednesday 14th September

On Wednesday, the coffin is expected to be carried to the Palace of Westminster, where the Queen will 'lie in state' for four days before she is buried. A short service will be held, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thursday 15th September to Sunday 18th September

The Queen's coffin will continue to 'lie in state', meanwhile Charles will continue on his UK tour.

Monday 19th September

The funeral is set to take place at Westminster Abbey on Monday. The service will be lead by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen's coffin will be taken by gun carriage.

The service will be televised, and it is thought that two minutes of silence will be held at midday.

It is believed that the Queen will be buried at St George's Chapel in Windsor.

This story has been updated to reflect the news that Queen Elizabeth II has passed away. 

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.