1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

What happens after the queen's death?

Silke Wünsch
September 8, 2022

Secret plans for the detailed course of events after the death of Queen Elizabeth II have been ready for a long time — codenamed Operation London Bridge.

Houses of Parliament in London with flag at half mast
Flags were lowered at the Houses of Parliament following the death of Queen Elizabeth IIImage: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The day has come, setting into motion a minutely devised protocol.

"London Bridge is down" — after the queen passed away today at her Scottish estate, Balmoral, the prime minister was informed of the event by way of that code phrase on a secure telephone line.

Next, a long chain of communication ensued, with the cabinet secretary and senior ministers then notified — and requested to keep the information confidential.

Only then did the official announcement go to the press. Within 10 minutes, all flags on public buildings were lowered to half-staff and bells tolled.

Buckingham Palace and government social media channels carried black banners, and a mourning notice was posted on a black background.

10 days to state funeral

Meanwhile, the heir to the throne, her son and soon to become King Charles III, prepares for his address to the nation as the new head of state, followed by a memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

For the next 10 days, until the queen's funeral, all government business will rest. The "London Bridge" protocol, however, continues; each day following what is termed "D-Day" (the day of the queen's death) is numbered.

D-Day+1, and a new king

Prince Charles will officially be proclaimed the new king. Charles' enthronement is codenamed Operation Spring Tide. The new king then has his first audience with the prime minister and the cabinet.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles will be crowned King Charles IIIImage: FrankHoemann/SVEN SIMON/picture alliance

The following day, Elizabeth's coffin will be taken to Buckingham Palace, to be received by the prime minister and members of the Cabinet. Since the monarch died in Balmoral in Scotland, Operation Unicorn will be triggered, which means her body will be taken to London by royal train.

If that's not possible, Operation Overstudy kicks in — meaning the coffin will be transferred by plane.

On Day 3, the new king is scheduled to receive condolences at Westminster in the morning. In the afternoon, he sets out on his journey across the United Kingdom, which first takes him to Scotland.

The sun sets behind the Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament
The queen will lie in state at the Palace of Westminster for four daysImage: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

D-Day+4 to D-Day+9, Operations Lion and Feather

While the new sovereign visits Northern Ireland, Operation Lion will be rehearsed in London. It is the procession of the royal coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, the seat of government.

After the coffin arrives at the Palace of Westminster, there will be a church service. The queen will lie in state for four days in Westminster Hall in an operation codenamed Feather. People will be able to pay their respects to the queen around the clock.

Meanwhile, the proceedings of the state funeral will be rehearsed, and King Charles III will visit Wales.

Windsor Castle
The queen's final resting place will be St. George's Chapel at Windsor CastleImage: Hannah McKay/WPA/Getty Images

D-Day+10, state funeral

The state funeral is to be held at Westminster Abbey. Nationwide, there will be two minutes of silence at noon. The day of the funeral is to be a day of national mourning; employers are free to give their employees the day off, if it's a weekday.

The state funeral will be followed by a procession to St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, with a final farewell to the queen during a service.

Queen Elizabeth will be laid to rest in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle — side by side with her husband Prince Philip, who died in April 2021, and who will now be moved from the royal crypt to the family tomb.

This article has been translated from German.