And Her Little Dogs Too

What happens when the Queen dies?

Photo: mags

The newsreaders will wear black suits and black ties.… Listeners to Radio 4 and Radio 5 live will hear a specific formulation of words, “This is the BBC from London,” which, intentionally or not, will summon a spirit of national emergency. The main reason for rehearsals is to have words that are roughly approximate to the moment. “It is with the greatest sorrow that we make the following announcement,” said John Snagge, the BBC presenter who informed the world of the death of George VI. (The news was repeated seven times, every 15 minutes, and then the BBC went silent for five hours). According to one former head of BBC news, a very similar set of words will be used for the Queen. The rehearsals for her are different to the other members of the family, he explained. People become upset, and contemplate the unthinkable oddness of her absence. “She is the only monarch that most of us have ever known,” he said. The royal standard will appear on the screen. The national anthem will play. You will remember where you were.

Depending on how fascinated you are with the quaint, antiquated monarchical traditions of a quaint, antiquated monarchy you will have an idea of how interested you might be in an article about what happens when Britain’s monarch dies. But everything about this article — the reporting of which “involved dozens of interviews with broadcasters, government officials, and departed palace staff, several of whom have worked on London Bridge directly. Almost all insisted on complete secrecy” — is fascinating, even if you don’t care a whit about how they do things on Knifecrime Island. Has the world changed or have you changed? Save it for when you’ve got some time.

Operation London Bridge: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death