London Bridge is Down

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest serving monarch in the history of the U.K. She’s in her 90s now, and she’ll die one day, of course. Recently, some British media organizations unveiled part of the intricate and elaborate plan that’s been set into place (and extensively rehearsed) when that day arrives.

  • If she falls ill, she will rest in one of her palaces, and her family and close friends will be summoned to say goodbye. The queen’s doctor will release short bulletins to the media about the queen’s condition, hinting at her death.
  • At the moment of the Queen’s death, her doctor will close her eyes, and Prince Charles will be informally declared the new king, and his siblings will be ordered to kiss his royal highness’s hands.
  • The queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, will then put in a telephone call to the prime minister on a private, secure line. He’ll then say the secret code (just in case anybody is listening) to let the PM know that the Queen is dead: “London Bridge is down.”
  • A government office called the Global Response Centre will send the news out to the countries around the world that are part of the British empire, for which the Queen is (or rather was) the head of state. The leaders of those 15 countries will hear first, and then the leaders of 36 other countries that are part of the Commonwealth—sovereign nations but still united by culture and history, such as Canada and Australia.
  • Then the media will find out, and in a matter of minutes, so will the whole world. A news bulletin will be sent electronically to England’s Press Association and major news organizations around the world at the exact moment that a footman will emerge from the royal residence of Buckingham Palace and pin a notice of the queen’s death to the castle gates.
  • Every English print and electronic media organization has their obituaries prepared in advance and are ready to go. At The Guardian newspaper, the deputy editor reportedly has the stories to be printed after the Queen dies pinned to his office wall. The London Times reportedly has 11 days of Queen-centric news features lined up.
  • On commercial radio stations in England, staff will be alerted by a special blue, flashing “obituary light” in their studios. It’s a warning for disc jockeys that they will need to switch over to a newsfeed within a few minutes…but to immediately switch over to soft and somber music, regardless of the station’s usual format.
  • TV network BBC 1 will switch to an all-news format for up to several days, with news anchors clad in black suits and black ties. (All the other BBC offshoots will go dark.) The coverage will begin with the words, “It is with the greatest sorrow that we make the following announcement.” Scant details of the queen’s death and life will be given, and then the English national anthem will play.