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Why the codeword for the Queen's death is the name of a bridge in London

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 08: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II attends the National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph on November 8, 2020 in London, England. Remembrance Sunday services were substantially scaled back today due to the current restrictions on gatherings, intended to curb the spread of covid-19. (Photo by Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)
The Queen at a national service of Remembrance in November 2020. (Max Mumby/Getty Images)

The day the Queen dies will be the beginning of a period of national mourning and will bring an end to the second Elizabethan era.

Generations in the UK and the Commonwealth have only known the Queen as monarch, and she has presided over huge changes both nationally and globally.

Some 14 Prime Ministers have come and gone in Britain while she remains head of state, and she has been a key part of the nation’s foreign relationships.

The issue of a royal death is broached in season four of The Crown on Netflix as Prince Charles, played by Josh O’Connor, goes missing following an avalanche during a ski trip.

The Queen is informed her son is missing and the matter of whether he may be dead is touched on, which leads the Queen, played by Olivia Colman, to explain to Prince Philip, Tobias Menzies, how the royals’ deaths are all named after bridges.

She tells her husband that the names of bridges were chosen to represent the move from life to death.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Queen Elizabeth II arrives to award Captain Sir Thomas Moore with the insignia of Knight Bachelor at Windsor Castle on July 17, 2020 in Windsor, England. British World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore raised over £32 million for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by UK Press Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Queen at the investiture of Captain Sir Thomas Moore in July 2020. (UK Press Pool/UK Press)

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The Queen’s secret code name of “London Bridge” was exposed by The Guardian in 2017, when it published details of her funeral plans and said that the phrase which would be relayed from Buckingham Palace to Downing Street is: “London Bridge is down”.

Despite The Crown coming in for lots of criticism about various inaccuracies, it seems this is one bit that of trivia that royal fans can rely on.

Speaking about how The Crown had tackled the scene, former palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter explained to Yahoo UK: “The code 'Bridges' has been around for decades. To suggest Prince Philip didn't know what it meant is nonsense, every Royal knows the term and every Royal signs off on his/her funeral arrangement.

“Bridges means the move from life to the hereinafter.”

According to The Guardian, Forth Bridge refers to Prince Philip, and Menai Bridge is used for Prince Charles.

coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. took place on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. London. Queen Elizabeth II. with the Duke of Edinburgh. at Buckingham Palace shortly after their return from Westminster Abbey. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The coronation of Elizabeth II in 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group)

The news of the Queen’s death will be relayed first to the Prime Minister, who will be woken if they’re asleep to take the call.

Then all news outlets will be given the information at the same time.

TV stations, who will have carefully rehearsed this news, will put their plans into action, likely to include various experts signed up to speak to them exclusively.

Newspapers and websites will have prepared content for the Queen’s death which will go up at a moment’s notice.

Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne on 6 February 1952, following the death of her father, King George VI.

She was in Kenya at the time of his death, and returned to the UK immediately. If Charles happened to be abroad at the moment of his accession, the same thing will happen.

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In the days following the accession, the Accession Council will meet in order to formally proclaim Charles as king. He will read the accession proclamation.

There isn’t a set timeframe for when his coronation would happen. His grandfather’s happened very quickly - because it was in place for King Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor when he abdicated instead.

But it was more than a year before the Queen had her coronation service, as it took place in June 1953.

Ahead of the Queen’s state funeral, which will be organised by the Earl Marshal (who is the Duke of Norfolk), her body will lie in state at Westminster Hall. When the Queen Mother’s coffin was placed there in 2002, there were huge queues of people who waited to pass by and pay their respects. It’s likely the same thing will happen when the Queen dies.

It’s also reported that organisations like the BBC will cancel all their comedy shows from the time of the Queen’s death until after her funeral - which could be 12 days.

Despite being 94 years old, and the longest reigning monarch, the Queen clearly has no plans to step aside before her death, according to royal historian Robert Lacey, author of Battle of Brothers.

It was announced in November 2020 that there are plans underway to mark her 70 years on the throne, in 2022. The Platinum Jubilee will include an extra day off for Britons.

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