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What Happens Now That Queen Elizabeth II Has Died?

Photo Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/ WPA Pool/ Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/ WPA Pool/ Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving British monarch in history, died on September 8, 2022. At the time of her passing, there were a number of carefully coordinated plans already in place to help ensure that all of the important tasks would be accomplished.

These tasks include announcing the Queen’s death to important figures, allowing for public mourning, details of her funeral, and the succession of the next monarch. These plans were created in the 1960s and have been updated throughout the years, including the creation of a new plan in the late 2010s called Operation Unicorn.

Operation London Bridge

Before Queen Elizabeth died, the plan already in place is known as Operation London Bridge. This is a 10-day plan for the United Kingdom immediately following her death. It was named after the phrase “London Bridge is down,” which was likely used to communicate to key officials and the British Prime Minister that the Queen had died.

Outside of the royal family, the news of the death first went to the Prime Minister and the members of the Privy Council. It was eventually sent to Members of Parliament (MPs) and those high up in civil service, and broken to the public through social media. Within 10 minutes of receiving the news, all flags were lowered. The following day, King Charles III gave an address and a minute of silence occurred throughout the country.

Black and white photo of Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation gown and crown wave on a balcony beside the Duke of Edinburgh.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh wave at the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace after Elizabeth’s coronation, June 2, 1953. (Photo Credit: Keystone/ Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)

If she’d passed away in England, the day after her death, the Queen‘s coffin would have been sent to Buckingham Palace so that on the fifth day it could be taken in a procession to the Houses of Parliament.

However, since the Queen died in Scotland, her body remained at Balmoral Castle the day after her death per Operation Unicorn, discussed below.

Operation Spring Tide

Following the death of a monarch, another must immediately take their place. In what is known as Operation Spring Tide, the successor, Prince Charles, was appointed as King Charles III following a meeting of the Accession Council at St. James’ Palace the day after Elizabeth’s death. On the same day, Parliament was called and the MPs expressed their sadness over the former Queen’s death before swearing their allegiance to Charles.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles standing in front of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, known as the Duke of Rothesay while in Scotland, and Queen Elizabeth II attend the Royal Company of Archers Reddendo Parade in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, June 30, 2022. (Photo Credit: Jeff J. Mitchell/ Getty Images)

Two days after Elizabeth’s death, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish administrations did the same. It won’t be until a few months after the funeral of Elizabeth that Charles will have his official coronation. As he became King, his former title “Prince of Wales” was given to Prince William. Kate is now the Princess of Wales, the title William’s mother Diana once held.

Operation Unicorn

Although Operation London Bridge was established to account for the death of the monarch, a new plan, first reported in 2019, was created to account for the Queen’s death taking place in Scotland. The Queen spent much of her time at her favored Scottish estate, Balmoral Castle, where she often visited with her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

This plan allowed for much of the ceremony to take place in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament was suspended so that the funeral preparations could begin. As many people from all over the country traveled to Scotland to pay their respects, Holyrood Palace and St. Giles’ Cathedral served as public places of mourning.

Queen Elizabeth II standing in front of the fire in her sitting room in Balmoral Castle.
Queen Elizabeth II waits in the Drawing Room before receiving newly elected leader of the Conservative party Liz Truss at Balmoral Castle, September 6, 2022. (Photo Credit: Jane Barlow/ WPA Pool/ Getty Images)

More from us: Take a Look Back at Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s Timeless Love Story

According to these plans, the Queen’s coffin was moved to the ballroom at Balmoral Castle in Scotland the day after her passing. It was covered in the royal standard of Scotland and a wreath of flowers. The Queen then laid at Holyrood Palace with a reception taking place at St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. After the service, the coffin was transported to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen is lying in state for four days at Westminster Hall. Her funeral will be held at Westminster Abby on September 19, and the coffin will be buried in the King George IV Memorial Chapel.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.