In this morning's Guardian online I came across a long article all about "Operation London Bridge: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death". She is getting on a bit so I suppose that there must be contingency plans. The queen’s last three prime ministers were all born after she came to the throne. That's quite disturbing really. (One of my earliest, vaguest memories is sitting on the grass at a Coronation Party in a park. Somewhere I still have a coronation mug and a commemorative book with pictures of a very young queen and her husband. His pictures I always thought were pictures of my uncle and I was very confused about what he was doing in the book at all.)
Apparently when George VI was dying they agreed on a coded message to send when the royal doctor had "injected the king with 750mg of morphine and a gram of cocaine – enough to kill him twice over – in order to ease the monarch’s suffering, and to have him expire in time for the printing presses of the Times, which rolled at midnight", as the article put it. (Is that not assisted suicide?) The code was "Hyde Park Corner", a cryptic message so that the prime minister and other important folk could be informed of the death but the telephone operators would not know before the rest of the nation.
The code agreed for Elizabeth is "London Bridge is down". Surely they will have to change that now as everyone who has skim read the article knows what it is. And if anything actually happens to London Bridge they will have to be very careful how they word the reports in case the wrong message is sent and we all go into mourning ahead of time.
It is, however, reassuring to know that some things are planned. Maybe the people who do this kind of planning for the royal household should be invited to join the Brexit committee.
The mass media have plans as well. The Guardian has a list of prepared stories pinned to the deputy editor's wall and ITN is said to have rehearsed the death of the queen, substituting the name "Mrs Robinson". Royal correspondents are lined up ready for the off. This is clearly another bunch of people who should be helping to make plans for what the Uk should do if we get no deal with the EU?
The code names thing is quite amusing. So Her Majesty is known as London Bridge and Mrs Robinson. I wonder what code names exist for other members of the royal family. And for politicians for that matter. In the utopian White House world of "The West Wing" all the major players have security code names. The press secretary CJ is most upset to discover that hers is Flamingo. No amount of reassuring her that a flamingo is a beautiful bird helps; she obviously just sees the lanky and ungainly aspects of it.
Anyway, getting back to mortality matters, there are contingency plans according to where the royal lady dies. Ideally she would die in Buckingham Palace and save everyone a lot of bother but she could be in Balmoral, her holiday home in Scotland. There is a whole protocol for getting her back to London. This is fine at the moment but what happens, I ask myself, if Scotland has gone independent by then? Will the queen even be able to holiday in Balmoral, let alone die there? And will we need some kind of special permit to bring her through the customs post in the newly fortified Hadrian's Wall?
The more I think about this, the more convinced I become that this long read article was included just to take our minds off other stuff that is going on (planned or unplanned) in the world!