Comment by Daniela Elser
On D+1 the Ascension Council will meet. On D+2, the Prime Minister of Great Britain could find himself waiting on a train station platform. On D+3, Westminster will grind to a standstill.
While all of this might sound cryptic now, there will come a point in the not-so-distant future when the world becomes au fait, seemingly overnight, with these terms. That is, when the Queen passes away.
D-Day is the day the reign of Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith comes to a record-busting end, as set out by the exhaustive plan for her passing, Operation London Bridge.
News of London Bridge’s existence first broke in 2017 when The Guardian published one of the most bombshell pieces of royal reporting since Diana, Princess of Wales, first came into contact with Andrew Morton.
The lengthy piece revealed that within moments of Her Majesty breathing her last, a grandiose production decades in the making will swing into meticulous motion, ultimately culminating D+10 days later with her State Funeral.
Now, this week, more details about London Bridge came to light via Politico, with documents obtained by the political website revealing, for the first time, the top brass’ fears about the potential mayhem the sovereign’s death might unleash.
The new report reveals the breathtaking granularity of the planning, with seemingly no detail too small.
The great and good will be told the news first, followed by the general public. But while we don’t know when the Queen’s sad passing will take place, the wording for the announcement of her death has already been written.
And that is pretty wild. Just think about it: Right now in desk drawers and computer files (and probably wedged under Boris Johnson’s signature mussed hair pomade) are actual scripts which staffers will have to follow to break the news.
When it comes to departmental permanent secretaries, they will reveal the news to their minister by phone by saying: “We have just been informed of the death of Her Majesty The Queen.”
Then there is The Email.
On D-Day, a “call cascade” will begin with the Queen’s private secretary informing the PM and followed by the cabinet secretary, who is the country’s highest ranking civil servant.
(Interestingly, the post is currently held by Simon Case who previously worked from 2018 to 2020 as Prince William’s Private Secretary.)
Case, in turn, will hit “send” on the email which will go out to ministers and senior civil servants which reads: “Dear colleagues, It is with sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Her Majesty The Queen.”
This is the point, one would assume, the cat would well and truly be out of the regal bag here.
Parliament will be recalled – if they are not sitting – and the PM will have an audience with King Charles III who will then address the nation at 6pm. In the days that follow, the new king will zip off around the UK on a tour to try and sell himself to his new subjects. (Best of luck with that Charlie.)
Where things could very well start to go off the rails is in the lead up to the funeral, which will take place on D+10. In the days before the grand, state affair at Westminster Abbey, the situation in London sounds like it could very well verge on the nightmarish with the city stretched to “breaking point”.
Politico reports, “In a striking assessment of the scenes that could unfold, one memo warns of a worst-case scenario in which London literally becomes ‘full’ for the first time ever as potentially hundreds of thousands of people try to make their way there – with accommodation, roads, public transport, food, policing, healthcare and basic services stretched to breaking point.
“Concerns have also been raised about a shortage of stewards for crowd control purposes.”
Elsewhere, while Tesco is trying to prevent a run on tinned beans and someone is trying to keep the buses running (I’m guessing), other big headaches will be consuming top governmental brass.
Trying to get global heads of state and VIPs into the country and looking after them falls to the Foreign Office – a requirement that sounds hellish at the best of times, let alone should this take place during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Home Office and the security services “will be on high alert for any increased terror threat” and the Department of Transport will be trying to keep a handle on potential “overcrowding in the capital”. Good luck with that, chaps.
While outside the palace walls, the Jubilee line might have ground to a halt and the shelves of Pret-A-Manger might look like something out of Soviet Russia, inside the house of Windsor could very well be facing their own personal family pandemonium too.
If Her Majesty should pass away any time soon, with the Sussex imbroglio unresolved, then the mind positively boggles.
Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would, of course, jet back to the UK with their return potentially overshadowing Charles and his pre-ascension tour.
(What would you rather look at photos of and read about? A septuagenarian waving at only mildly-awed crowds or Meghan bringing some serious style back to the mean streets of Kensington? I rest my case.)
Through no fault of their own, simply by dint of the current state of affairs, Harry and Meghan’s very presence would suck up media and public oxygen, poking something of a stick in the spokes of the well-oiled machine that is Operation Springtide aka Charles’ ascension.
Basically, their repatriation will dilute the focus on the new, underwhelming King.
Another consideration here is that the Sussexes have repeatedly spoken of their deep affection for and respect for the Queen.
Without her on the throne and her familial presence acting as something of a guardrail, the handbrake could well and truly come off for the duo when it comes to the outspoken breakaway state of Sussex.
If their Oprah interview and Harry’s subsequent podcast and TV outings were them operating with a weather eye on not upsetting his Gan Gan, then the mind truly boggles at what they might do or say next.
Because no matter how many myriad hours courtiers, aides and everyone with the 10 Downing Street Wi-Fi password have spent preparing for the Queen’s passing and the change of sovereign, one variable they simply can’t control is the ongoing Windsor family melodrama.
Mandarins might be able to prescribe how fast flags are lowered (within 10 minutes of the news breaking) and have the black holding page for the royal website ready and waiting but when it comes to how Her Majesty’s grandchildren will react, it is firmly out of their hands.
As we inch irrevocably closer to D-Day, it’s not just havoc on the city streets they will have to worry about.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
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