“London Bridge is down.”
These are the words Queen Elizabeth II‘s private secretary said on secure phone lines to UK government authorities to inform them the Queen had died earlier this morning AEST.
What followed that moment has been carefully planned and prepared for years — it’s called Operation Unicorn.
We can expect a lot to happen in the UK and in Australia in the coming days to mourn the Queen and affirm our new head of state. So what has already happened and what will occur over the coming days?
What is Operation Unicorn?
Operation Unicorn is a thoroughly detailed plan of operations that went into motion once the Queen died in Scotland at her Balmoral Castle estate. It’s actually a sub-plan of the main plan titled Operation London Bridge, which was developed over decades in preparation for her death and would have been enacted had she died in England.
What has already happened?
Newly appointed British Prime Minister Liz Truss was informed of the Queen’s death via phone moments after she passed.
The Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre, which is at a secret location in London, released the news to 15 non-UK governments, including Australia, where the Queen was also head of state. Then the 36 other Commonwealth nations where the Queen was a symbolic figurehead were informed.
A notice of the Queen’s passing edged in black was then mounted on the Buckingham Palace gate.
A statement from the Royal Family was sent to news outlets and published on social media, and the news spread.
Soon after the initial announcement, Princes Charles, now King Charles III, published his own statement of mourning.
Every major news outlet in the world, including PEDESTRIAN.TV, had an article drafted ready to be updated and published when the news broke.
Publications in the UK will have days of coverage planned. The Times is reported to have 11 days of coverage ready, prepared years ago.
All UK flags have been lowered to half-mast, the Royal Family’s website has been replaced with a black holding page with a short statement announcing the Queen’s death, and government websites now all bear a black banner.
Is Charles the King now?
Yes, Charles became the King immediately after his mother’s passing. He’s chosen King Charles III as his monarchical name.
The 73-year-old has been next in line for the throne his whole life, which is the longest wait in British monarchy history.
The Accession Council is expected to proclaim Charles as the new sovereign on Friday London time.
The proclamation will be read from a balcony at St James’ Palace.
Charles’ wife Camilla is now the Queen Consort — a title for wives married into the Royal Family.
What about the rest of the Queen’s descendants’ titles?
Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, is now first in line to the throne and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, is first in line to become Queen Consort.
Following William, his nine-year-old son Prince George is next in line to the crown, followed by seven-year-old Princess Charlotte and then four-year-old Prince Louis.
The death of the Queen also means that Harry and Meagan’s son Archie is now technically a prince and his younger sister, Lilibet or “Lili” is also entitled to be a princess.
What happens next in the UK?
The UK will go into a period of national mourning ahead of the Queen’s funeral, but there’s still a lot of official business that needs attending to.
Friday will be the the first day of mourning and it will be marked by ceremonial gun salutes at Hyde Park and Tower Hill, as well as a national minute’s silence.
In the coming days the new King will meet with the prime minister and cabinet, the leader of the opposition, the archbishop of Canterbury and the dean of Westminster. He will also visit Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for accession ceremonies this week before he returns to London for his mother’s funeral.
Flags will be at full mast for 24 hours following the King’s accession and return to half-mast until the day after the funeral.
The day of the Queen’s death is known as D-Day and the funeral will take place on D+10, but we don’t have a date or time confirmed.
The Queen’s body will leave Balmoral Castle on Friday to be taken by road to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, where a ceremony and procession will be held and attended by members of the Royal Family.
The coffin will then be flown to London. When it arrives it will be taken to Westminster Hall where the “lying in state” will commence for five days.
The lying in state is an opportunity for the public to visit the Queen’s coffin, mounted in the middle of the hall, and pay their respects. Westminster Hall will be open 23 hours a day.
The state funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey, attended by foreign royal families and dignitaries.
There will be two minutes’ silence across the UK, followed by a one-hour service.
The coffin will then be taken in a large ceremonial procession to Hyde Park and the coffin will be lowered into the royal vault.
What happens next in Australia?
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese released a statement this morning.
The Prime Minister’s statement on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. pic.twitter.com/P6l00TQkId
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) September 8, 2022
All flags will fly at half-mast across Australia until the day after the Queen’s funeral.
Parliament will meet and the Governor-General will announce the accession of King Charles III. The PM will also deliver a speech. Both will attend the Queen’s funeral, travelling in seperate planes. In total, four official Australian mourners will attend along with 10 other important figures.
There will be series of gun salutes to the Queen in Australia in correspondence with events in London.
We can also expect Australia’s status as a constitutional monarchy and whether it ought to be a republic to be freshly debated.