On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. local time, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth II had died peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96. The sad news was not unexpected; hours earlier, the Palace had released a rare statement saying doctors were “concerned” and that she was under medical supervision.
Her sons Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and grandson Prince William raced to her side from London in an official Royal Air Force airplane. Even Prince Harry — who happened to be in the UK for a charity event — dropped everything and headed to Scotland. The Queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles, and only daughter, Princess Anne, were already with her, the Palace said.
The writing was on the wall.
Minutes before the announcement was made on the air, James Cook, BBC’s Scotland editor, described the mood outside of Balmoral as that of a “well-rehearsed plan swinging quietly into action.”
He was right. There’s been a plan in place for years for this very moment. Details for royal funerals are meticulously laid out, often with involvement from the member of the royal family in question.
And, thanks to some remarkable journalism, we have an outline of what will be happening over the next few days.
In 2017, the Guardian published a story outlining the plans for the Queen’s death, which, the world learned at the time, was codenamed “Operation London Bridge.” Last year, Politico obtained the latest edition of these plans, as prepared by the UK’s Cabinet Office. Most of what we know about how events will unfold following the Queen’s death comes from these two stories. Buckingham Palace will, of course, be making its own announcements about the finalized details.
Operation London Bridge will play out over the next 10 days, according to the documents seen by the Guardian and Politico. At the time of publication, it is “D-day,” the day of the Queen’s death. Each subsequent day is identified as “D+1,” “D+2,” etc.
Although Charles became the new sovereign at the time of his mother’s death, he will officially be proclaimed king by an Accession Council at St. James’s Palace in London tomorrow (D+1). Over the next week, he will travel to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales to receive messages of condolence. Clarence House confirmed on Thursday that he will be known as King Charles III.
Since the Queen died in Scotland, the first order of business will be transporting her body to London for burial. Politico reported that there are two plans for this, either “Operation Unicorn,” wherein her body will be carried to London by royal train, or “Operation Overstudy,” wherein her body will be flown to London from Scotland. This will take place on “D+2,” or Saturday.
The Palace’s preferred plan is for her body to travel via the royal train, according to the Guardian.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who met with the Queen to form a government just two days ago, will meet the train carrying the monarch’s body alongside other officials and ministers. The Queen’s body will be transported to Buckingham Palace in preparation for her body to lie in state and for her funeral. On either “D+4” or “D+5” (the Politico and Guardian reports differ), there will be an official procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster. Following the procession, the Queen’s body will lie in state for three days so that members of the public can pay their respects to the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
The funeral will likely take place at Westminster Abbey on “D-Day+10.” The day of the funeral will reportedly be a national day of mourning.