Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died at the age of 99, the Buckingham Palace announced on Friday. As the Royal Family prepares to bid adieu to the Duke, the COVID-19 pandemic casts a shadow on Operation Forth Bridge, the events which would follow his demise.
Operation Forth Bridge is the code name meant to refer to the death of the Duke of Edinburgh when breaking the news to the family and the military, before the public announcement. It also entails a contingency plan in the face of the demise. Forth Bridge is the name of railway Bridge on river Forth in Scotland.
Amid the threat of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the traditional announcement of a royal death, posted on the railings at Buckingham Palace, will be taken down quickly to avoid gathering of crowd, a British royal correspondent reported.
According to the protocol, the first step was the announcement by Buckingham Palace. Next Lord Chamberlain consulted the Prime Minister and then sought the Queen’s specific wishes in regards to the death announcement. The country has now entered a period of national mourning and all flags have been lowered to half-mast.
Further the funeral plans, made in consultation with the Duke himself, decades ago, will have to be revised amid the pandemic, a Daily Mail reporter said. The Duke is entitled to a state funeral, however, he had reportedly asked for little fuss and said that he would prefer a discreet send off.
Had it not been for the pandemic, thousands of people would have flocked to London and Windsor and some might have even camped out overnight to witness a military procession of Philip’s coffin on the day of his funeral.
Royal Family’s Code Names
The Royal Family has code names for the death of its members and plans ahead the events that are to follow in case someone passes away.
Queen Elizabeth II, who has been on the throne for over 60 years, also has her funeral planned. Referred to as Operation London Bridge, it was laid out way back in 1960s and has been rehearsed over the years in order to ensure that it is conducted smoothly when the time comes. In case of her death, the Queen’s private secretary will inform the people of importance and kick the planned protocol into action, by declaring “London Bridge is down.”
Those who have watched the famous television series The Crown, can recall the scene of Prince Charles’ near-death experience on a ski slope when an avalanche strikes in an episode of season 4. That’s when we can hear his code name, ‘Operation Menai Bridge’ for the first time, as he’s presumed dead. Menai Bridge is the name of a suspension bridge in Wales.
The Royal Family also has code names for Royal visits, holidays abroad, generally aimed at keeping the family safe when discussing them over radio systems that can be hacked into.