Sep 13, 2022
Operation London Bridge: How the Queen’s funeral will work Transcript
Inside the funeral arrangements, Royal protocol and accession plans for Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:01)
For decades, this historic moment marking the death of Queen Elizabeth has been meticulously planned, almost entirely in secret. What we do know is that the next few days will be a showcase of tradition, ceremonial symbolism, and somber reflection on one of the greatest figureheads of the modern age. Many of the protocols and ceremonies taking place are deeply rooted in history and signed off by Buckingham Palace or the Church of England. Over time, there have been several adjustments and refinements. Officially, this will be a 10 day affair that began the moment her majesty died. In keeping with protocol, the British Prime Minister was the first person contacted outside the palace. The official notice is said to have been delivered by the Queen’s private secretary via secure phone lines in code declaring London Bridge is down. The news was then shared with the Queen’s representatives in the 14 other countries where she’s been the head of state and then the other 40 nations of the commonwealth.
Speaker 1: (01:10)
On receiving official notice from the palace, British broadcasters appearing on camera changed into black clothing as a mark of respect. The palace’s notice to the public came with a simple act, a footman posting a black-edged notice just inside the gates of Buckingham Palace. That same message is echoed on the palace website seen by millions. The symbolism continues. Officials place black arm bands exactly three and a quarter inches wide on their left arms. Across the United Kingdom, flags on official buildings are flown at half mast. The Church of England instructs parishes across the UK to ring church bells now and for the next 10 days in recognition of the death of their supreme governor. But those chimes will, for the most part, be muffled on every day of the mourning period, except for the day of the new monarch’s proclamation.
Speaker 1: (02:12)
The rhythms of daily life, from the stock market to sporting fixtures, are being canceled or closed as a sign of respect. A special session of Parliament commemorates the Queen’s life and service. Confirmation of the Queen’s death triggers another momentous chain of events. Prince Charles moves from being heir apparent, to monarch. This is called the accession. It’s an entirely different operation, code named Spring Tide. Although the official proclamation of his accession doesn’t happen until tomorrow, the day ends with the new King addressing the nation in his first public act as head of state.
Speaker 1: (03:00)
One day after the Queen’s death, flags are raised again to full mast. This is the day the new monarch is proclaimed. It involves an accession council formed of the Privy Council, plus officers and commissioners of the state and Commonwealth gathering at St. James’s Palace. They announce the death of the sovereign and sign an official proclamation declaring Charles the new King. After this, he takes the first of a series of oaths. The coronation only comes later. For now, the proclamation is presented for the first time to the public outside St. James’s Palace heralded by trumpeters of the lifeguard. From a balcony overlooking Friary Court, the Garter King of Arms appears to proclaim the new King. With that, a 41 royal gun salute takes place at Hyde Park in London. That’s a 21 round royal salute and an extra 20 because it’s fired at a designated royal park.
Speaker 1: (04:09)
A carriage procession of heralds travels to the statue of Charles I at Trafalgar Square to repeat the proclamation. This is symbolic because this statue represents the official center of London. This pageantry is repeated across the city and country. After the proclamation of a new King, MPs in parliament swear and oath of allegiance. For the first time in decades, they shall declare, “Long live the king.” Behind the scenes, there are practicalities to take care of. Westminster Hall next to Parliament closes in preparation for a funeral ceremony on a rare scale. A service will be held at Edinburgh’s St. Giles’ Cathedral with members of the royal family in attendance, after which the King will meet with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicholas Sturgeon, at the Scottish Parliament. For the public, the grieving is evident everywhere. Television programming has taken on a more somber reflective tone. The BBC’s red logo is replaced with a black version. Fewer comedies are shown, no satire is aired.
Speaker 1: (05:22)
On the morning of the third day after the Queen’s death, Charles receives an official motion of condolence at Westminster Hall before continuing to tour the rest of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, the Queen’s coffin will leave St. Giles’ Cathedral and be transferred to the royal train, which will travel slowly overnight down the east coast mainline to London. After the coffin arrives in London, it’ll be transported to Buckingham Palace by car. At this moment, palace staff who served the Queen are allowed to pay their respects in private. King Charles will travel to Northern Ireland to receive another message of condolence, this one at Hillsborough Castle and attend a service at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. The Queen’s coffin will be placed onto a carriage at Buckingham Palace and led in a short procession down The Mall, through Horse Guard’s Parade in central London, passed the Cenotaph and Big Ben, to Westminster Hall. Here, the Queen’s body lies in state on a catafalque, an ornamental platform draped in purple. The royal orb, sector and imperial crown are placed on the casket.
Speaker 1: (06:50)
King Charles, back from his tour of Scotland and Northern Ireland, leads family members in mourning at a memorial service. Soldiers made up of members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Ghurkas and Beefeaters stand guard as the doors open to the public for 23 hours a day. During the single hour the hall is closed, a new wreath is placed on the coffin. Many thousands of visitors are expected to line up to pay their respects to her majesty, who lies in state for three days. Naturally, there are concerns of overcrowding, not just on public transport. The strain will also be seen on services providing accommodation, food, healthcare, and policing.
Speaker 1: (07:43)
The King’s tour of the home nations concludes in Cardiff, where he receives another motion of condolence, this time from the Welsh Parliament, before attending a memorial service at Llandaff Cathedral. It’s expected that the 10th day will be the culmination of the official mourning period. Before the funeral, the Queen’s coffin will be cleaned and refreshed. The day of the funeral is designated a day of national mourning. Schools, the stock exchange, and many businesses are closed as the whole country and much of the world come to a standstill.
Speaker 1: (08:22)
From Westminster Hall, the Queen’s coffin has moved across the road to Westminster Abbey. She becomes the first monarch to have a funeral here since 1760. The funeral’s expected to begin at 11:00 AM and will be officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are about 2000 invited mourners and a television audience expected to be in the billions. In keeping with tradition, the broadcast cameras inside are not permitted to show the royal’s faces during prayers. After the ceremony, the coffin will be placed on the same funeral carriage that was used for three generations of kings before her, from her father to her great grandfather. From here, the Queen’s coffin is carried to its final resting place inside St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle next to the tomb of her father, King George VI. This is the same chapel where Prince Phillip’s funeral was held. His remains will be moved a short distance from the royal vault and placed beside hers to symbolically reunite them.
Speaker 1: (09:35)
Parallel to all this, Prince William becomes Prince of Wales and heir apparent. His children are next in line to the throne by order of their birth, including Princess Charlotte. A vote by the Commonwealth in 2011 ensure she becomes the first princess in British history to retain her place in the line of succession and not overtaken because of her gender. All printed money, stamps, mailboxes, and police uniforms will slowly be replaced with the Coat of Arms of the new monarch and image of the King. The lyrics of the national anthem are also adjusted to declare, “God save the King.” This is likely the largest funeral arrangement undertaken in our lifetime. Between the multiple bank holidays, the state funeral, and related ceremonies, it’ll cost British taxpayers billions of pounds. A grand attribute to the longest reigning monarch in British history.