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Operation Forth Bridge: How Duke of Edinburgh’s death was announced on TV and radio, and what events happen next

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh will result in a national period of mourning, and puts into motion a series of events and protocols for the coming weeks.

Plans for after Philip’s death have long been codenamed Operation Forth Bridge, and include arrangements for the announcement itself, his funeral and various operational procedures.

The Duke is understood to have helped draw up the details himself and was determined there should be a minimum of fuss.

 

Media

The announcement of Philip’s death interrupted programming on most TV and radio channels, with broadcasters switching to their newsrooms or pre-prepared packages.

The BBC’s protocol for such events sees a grey news update graphic appear on screen, followed by the reading of the Palace statement and the playing of the national anthem afterwards.

Newsreaders across all channels are wearing black, and presenters on other non-news programmes are likely to do so also as a mark of respect.

Schedules for the upcoming days are likely to be changed to include further coverage of the mourning period, and comedy shows are likely to be postponed.

Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale will not air on Friday night. Shows like MasterChef will be rescheduled.

On radio, all BBC stations simultaneously broadcast a news special.

Some commercial stations also switched to their news teams for extended programmes.

In the coming days, key events including the funeral will be televised live by the BBC and other broadcasters.

 

Flags at half mast

© Ian West / PA
The Union Flag flies at half mast on top of Buckingham Palace

Union flags on royal buildings where the monarch is not in residence will fly at half-mast.

The Royal Standard never flies at half-mast because it represents the sovereign and the United Kingdom, and is a symbol of the continuation of the monarchy.

If the Queen is in residence at a royal palace or castle, the Royal Standard will fly there full-mast as is the tradition.

The Union flag does not fly there at the same time.

The Union flag will fly at half-mast over the Houses of Parliament and other key sites.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is in charge of lowering flags on government buildings.

In pictures: Prince Philip – the Queen’s “rock” – dies at age of 99 but who really was the Duke of Edinburgh?

Funeral and tributes

There will be no lying in state and no state funeral for Philip, in accordance with his wishes.

His ceremonial royal funeral and burial are expected to take place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

But the coronavirus pandemic – with the ban on mass gatherings and England in national lockdown – means the exact plans for the aftermath of Philip’s death have had to change.

Buckingham Palace will confirm the arrangements for the duke’s funeral in the next day or so.

Tributes will flood in from around the world from presidents, prime ministers, heads of state, foreign royals, charities and the military.

Members of the public usually leave flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace, but stay at home advice means people are forbidden from going out unless necessary.

At some point, there will be gun salutes in the duke’s honour – if the military are able to facilitate this.

The House of Commons will return on Monday at 2.30pm, to allow MPs to make tributes to the Duke.

© PA
The then Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten posing for their first engagement pictures at Buckingham Palace

Traditionally, the duke’s coffin would have been moved to the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace to remain at rest for several days, but this is unlikely to be necessary if there is no longer a London element to the plans.

The Queen retreated to Windsor Castle for the lockdown period so events look set to be focused there instead.

The monarch and the royal family will pay their respects in private, as will household staff.

Philip’s children are likely to hold a private vigil at some stage around the coffin if restrictions permit.

The duke’s funeral was due to have a strong military presence in recognition of his naval career and his links with the armed forces.

But the prospect of creating a spectacle that could potentially attract hundreds of thousands of people means there is no longer expected to be a military procession in London or any processions through Windsor.

A military involvement is expected to take place within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Those servicemen and women taking part will rapidly begin their preparations, from practising routines to polishing helmets and swords.

Royal dressers will be fastidiously choosing and preparing black mourning ensembles.

The Metropolitan Police will be tasked with dealing with the security needed in the days ahead, and preventing mass gatherings.

The duke’s coffin will not lie in state.

This has long been reported as the plan but, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, has the added benefit of freeing the Government and the Royal Household from a series of logistical nightmares.

But Philip always insisted he did not want this honour.

© PA
Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh at Broadlands marking their diamond wedding anniversary

The duke’s funeral will not be a state funeral; instead it is set to be a ceremonial royal funeral.

This is in keeping with protocol. The Queen Mother was also given a ceremonial royal funeral.

The duke’s funeral is expected to take place at Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel eight days after his death.

Philip’s children and older grandchildren were likely to have walked behind the coffin, similar to the processions for the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Queen Mother.

The televised funeral service – for which the order of service is already set – was originally planned for 800 guests, but will now have to take into account the strict limit on numbers during the pandemic.

At present, only 30 guests are allowed to attend a funeral in England.

The Queen will have to decide which family members to invite.

In the coming days, Buckingham Palace aides will confirm the finalised plans, with how they should be handled during the worst public health crisis for a generation at the forefront of their minds.

The duke is expected to be buried in the Royal Vault in St George’s Chapel on the same day as the funeral.

This interment service will be private, attended by the Queen and senior members of the royal family.

In accordance with Philip’s wishes, there will be no official memorial service.

This might change, however, because of the scaled-back funeral – but only with the Queen’s agreement.

 

The Royal Family

The Queen has to decide whether the royal family enters Court Mourning – dressing in black and using black-edged writing paper – or the alternative, shorter Family Mourning – dressing in black – and how long this will last.

Some official engagements may continue, but social engagements – all on hold anyway because of the pandemic – are usually cancelled after the death of a senior member of the royal family unless in aid of charity.

Family Mourning for the Queen Mother in 2002 lasted three weeks.

The Queen may record a televised speech in tribute to her husband, just as she did for the Queen Mother in 2002, but it will depend on how she is feeling.

The rest of Philip’s family are likely to release their own statements about the royal patriarch.

The royal family’s website and social media channels will also honour the duke.

 

Scottish election

Parties in Scotland have suspended campaigning for the Holyrood election following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those paying tribute north of the border.

She tweeted: “I am saddened by news that the Duke of Edinburgh has died. I send my personal and deepest condolences – and those of @scotgov and the people of Scotland – to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “In the middle of a political campaign, this is a reminder of what’s most important in life.

“We have lost a tremendous public servant who for decades served his Queen and country. My heartfelt condolences are with Her Majesty and all of the Royal Family.

“We have suspended our campaign effective immediately.”

Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have also suspended their campaigns for the election on May 6.