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‘LONDON BRIDGE’ TRENDED. WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

For many of us, preparations for when a member of our family passes can be a bit uncomfortable. So much so that here in the Philippines, we try to avoid talks about deaths as much as possible. It is common to let the surviving members decide what steps to take when the inevitable comes. However, it is an entirely different story regarding Britain’s royal family members in London. The family where rulers of the commonwealth realm are raised as they wait for their line to the throne—the very same family that Queen Elizabeth II belonged to. 

September 8, 2022 will be written in history books as the day the world mourned the passing of the Queen. Many of us woke up in shock following the announcement of the death of the longest-reigning British monarch and the second longest-reigning sovereign in the world, Queen Elizabeth II. Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, she became Elizabeth II Regina (EIIR) after her father, the then reigning monarch, King George VI died in his sleep on February 6, 1952. Sixteen months later, Britain coronated the queen who would rule the United Kingdom and 14 other commonwealth realms for seven decades.

London Bridge is falling down.

London Bridge

The British Monarchy is known for its pageantry and strict observance of etiquette and protocols. From curtsies to how one must greet and address a royal, it would be odd to think that they do not have protocols in place when a royal family member passes. Especially if the one passing is the Head of the imperial family and the sovereign state. Social media platforms were flooded with topics like Queen Elizabeth, The Crown, and Prince Charles. But one particular trending topic may have also caught your attention—London Bridge.

We all know the famous London Bridge as the iconic representation of the U.K. But mostly, we know it from the English nursery rhyme that most children in any developing country have heard of and sang. Yesterday, London Bridge became the cue to Britons and royalists worldwide that the official mourning will commence soon.

When King George VI died, an Assistant Private Secretary from Buckingham Palace informed Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the King’s demise with the codeword Hyde Park Corner. He then instructed to notify key personnel using the exact words to set the funeral plan in motion. For Queen Elizabeth II, the codename for her funeral plan is London Bridge. It outlines the next steps for Britain in the coming days. Hours after her death, known as the ‘D-Day,’ the words “London Bridge is down” will be conveyed by the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Edward Young, through a ‘call cascade’ to the newly installed U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss, who the Queen just appointed on Tuesday. It was also the last time the late Queen was photographed.

Photo from Al Jazeera

When was Operation London Bridge created?

Operation London Bridge was created in the 1960s to discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It contains the details of what would happen during the 10-day period between her death and the funeral at Westminster Abbey. Details updated a year thrice, involving government officials, news outlets, and security forces. But most of the planning and preparations were made with the Queen passing at her primary residence, Buckingham Palace. It was reported that since July 21, the Queen has been staying in her Balmoral residence in Scotland. Before yesterday’s announcement, she remained under medical supervision due to serious concerns for her health. It was reported that she canceled a virtual privy council meeting, following her doctors’ instruction to rest.

London

Speculations started to grow after the royal family’s official website posted an unusual announcement regarding the Queen’s health at 12:35 PM BST (7:35 PM, Manila Time). The website was later reported to have crashed following the announcement. The traditional changing of guards ceremony was also canceled.  An hour later, BBC suspended its regular programming, and media personnel started wearing black ties. At 6:30 PM BST, the official Twitter account of the Royal Family announced the Queen’s death. But the first ones to know about the unfortunate news outside Buckingham were those who witnessed the union flag on top of the palace being lowered to half-mast. Then, it was followed by an official notice posted outside the gates, announcing the death of the Queen.

But what is Operation Unicorn?

Since the queen likely chose to stay in her Balmoral residence in Scotland for her remaining days, another operation was set up. Operation Unicorn is the funeral plan outlining what would happen next when the Queen dies in Scotland. The plan includes details about her funerals and the crowning of a new king.

Announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s death posted outside Balmoral Castle

The Operation Unicorn was set in motion yesterday, in parallel with Operation London Bridge, the primary plan. In the coming days, we will witness the unfolding of these plans. Every step they take will become part of the historical timeline of the end of the Second Elizabethan Age.  

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