London Bridge is down: This is what happens in the UK when the monarch dies

She’s Britain’s longest reigning monarch and has been a much loved national figure over her eventful reign, but after the long list of notable deaths last year, it’s got everyone worried about what happens if Queenie was to pass.

What would actually happen when she dies? Surely the whole country would come to a complete standstill.

Well apparently there has been a very detailed plan since the 1960s.

The plan is called ‘London Bridge is down’

The tragic news would be communicated to the Prime Minister of the UK, which would initiate Operation London Bridge.

Here is a long list of plans that would take place when the Queen passes away:

  • The Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, will be the first to know
  • Geidt will contact the Prime Minister with the code word “London Bridge is down”
  • The Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre will notify the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is head of state, and 36 other nations of the Commonwealth
  • The Press Association will be informed, alerting the world’s media
  • A footman dressed in mourning attire will pin a black-edged notice to the gates of Buckingham palace
  • The BBC will activate their ‘Radio Alert Transmission System’ (Rats) – sometimes known as ‘royal about to snuff it’ – which is reserved for the death of major royals
  • The media will release their pre-prepared stories, films and obituaries
  • Blue obituary lights will start flashing in commercial radio stations, and DJs will switch to the news in the next few minutes
  • Newsreaders will wear black suits and ties (which they keep at the ready at all times)
  • Some variation of the words “It is with the greatest sorrow that we make the following announcement” will be used
  • The royal standard will appear on screen and the national anthem will play
  • Comedy will be cancelled until after the funeral
  • Pilots will announce her death to passengers
  • The London Stock Exchange will close, potentially costing the economy billions


  • If she dies abroad, the Royal Flight (BAe 146 jet from the RAF’s No. 32 squadron) will take off from Northolt with a coffin on board
  • If she dies in Sandringham, Norfolk, her body will come to London in a car after a day or two
  • If she dies in Balmoral, Scottish ritual will commence: her body will lie in Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, and then carried up the Royal Mile to St. Giles’s Cathedral, then put on the Royal Train down the east coast

Credit: PA

  • The body will go to the throne room in Buckingham Palace, guarded by four Grenadier Guards in bearskin hats
  • News crews will amass on Canada Gate, at the bottom of Green Park, with their instructions
  • A team will assemble at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, including government, police, security and armed forces
  • Bells will toll and flags will fly at half-mast all over the country – except the Royal Standard, which is never flown at half-mast
  • Both houses of parliament will be recalled and will sit within hours of her death, swearing allegiance to the new sovereign

Click next to see what would happen with the succession and funeral. 

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