So … what happens now that Queen Elizabeth has died?

The British government has extensive plans for the death of a monarch.

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On Thursday morning, Buckingham Palace announced that longtime British monarch Queen Elizabeth’s health had seemingly deteriorated.

Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision.

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News of the Queen’s failing health, followed by the gathering of her immediate family, prompted mass speculation that the 96-year-old monarch was gravely ill. Later Thursday, the Royal Family confirmed that the monarch had died at the royal estate in Balmoral, Scotland.

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The British government has prepared for this eventuality, and will likely enact some combination of two protocols. One is dubbed “London Bridge,” while the other is known as “Operation Unicorn.”

What is “Operation Unicorn”?

Operation Unicorn is a contingency plan that responds to the Queen’s death specifically if it occurs in Scotland.

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According to The Independent, Operation Unicorn involves:

- Suspending the Scottish Parliament.

- Transporting the body to the Holyroodhouse, the official Scottish royal residence, and then St. Giles Cathedral.

- Bringing the body back to London aboard the family’s Royal Train.

There, what’s broadly known as “London Bridge” will be in effect.

This describes the complex series of notifications and preparations for public mourning that will radiate outward from the Royal Family after the Queen dies.

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In 2017, The Guardian UK detailed the intricate Domino effect put in place in the 1960s to notify the U.K. — in expanding concentric circles — of the death of a monarch.


According to The Guardian, the code-phrase “London Bridge is Down” will be used to relay the news to various British government officials, starting with the prime minister, as well as to other governments within the Commonwealth or where the queen was head of state.

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Once the appropriate parties within various governments are notified, the public will be next:

- A royal staffer will post a notice outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

- An alert will go out to global news services.

- The BBC will activate its “radio alert transmission system” or “Rats” alarm to alert its newsroom.

- Blue “Obit lights” will illuminate U.K. radio stations to notify them of the death of a monarch.

Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth’s oldest son, will become King. The 73-year-old is the father of Princes William and Harry.

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