What is the protocol if a senior member of the royal family dies?

Plans are in place for when members of ‘The Firm’ die

Prince Philip dies aged 99.

The Duke of Edinburgh passed away at the age of 99 on 9 April, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

Prince Philip was admitted to hospital earlier this year as “a precautionary measure” following treatment for a pre-existing heart condition.

He was treated by doctors at the King Edward VII Hospital in central London, before being transferred to the specialist cardiac unit at St Bartholomew’s hospital, where he underwent a heart procedure on 4 March.

The duke left hospital on 16 March, with Buckingham Palace releasing a statement confirming that he was discharged “following treatment for an infection and a successful procedure for a pre-existing condition”.

The statement added: “His Royal Highness wishes to thank all the medical staff who looked after him... and everyone who has sent their good wishes.”

Announcing the news of his death on 9 April, Buckingham Palace tweeted: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”

Prince Philip, the longest-reigning consort in British history, would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June.

The secret plan for when the Queen dies was unveiled a few years ago, and is code-named “London Bridge is Down” when she is in England, and “Operation Unicorn” when she is in Scotland. The plan has been in place since the 1960s.

Procedures are slightly different for other senior members of the royal family, which includes Prince Edward, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Anne.

How do we find out if a senior royal has died?

The Prime Minister will usually be informed by Lord Chamberlain (the senior most officer in the royal household) of this news first.

Then historically the BBC has been told about a royal death, ahead of other media outlets. Although major announcements have commonly gone out to a news agency such as the Press Association more recently, so the whole world can be informed simultaneously.

If a senior royal dies overnight, the announcement will reportedly come at 8am GMT.

Prince Philip’s death is known as Operation Forth Bridge. The Forth Bridge was opened in 1964, designed by the English engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker. It connects Edinburgh to Perth and at the time was the longest suspension bridge in the world outside of the United States.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh opened it together, with huge crowds present. Operation Menai Bridge is the name for the funeral plan for Charles, Prince of Wales, the codename refers to a suspension bridge in Wales.

Ceremonies and funerals

Flags are lowered and newsreaders wear black as the nation mourns the death of a senior royal. In 2002, the BBC’s Peter Sissons was criticised for wearing a red tie when he announced the death of the Queen Mother.

Members of Parliament will wear black armbands. Other guidance issued by the National Association of Civic Officers (NACO) includes suggestions such as cancelling and rescheduling events, flying flags at half mast, marking silence and having designated flower-laying areas for the public.

Now that Prince Philip has died, the Queen is expected to enter a period of mourning, meaning her state affairs are paused. This will likely be eight days long. A further period of royal mourning could last another 30 days, with duties suspended.

Although due to coronavirus, the Queen has been on a reduced schedule of events and public appearances anyway, and may continue to be so.

Prince Philip previously reportedly said that he would prefer a no fuss, simple funeral, rather than a grand affair.

That said, there will certainly be a ceremony and customs. He reportedly requested a military funeral, as a veteran of the Royal Navy. The funeral service will take place at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in Berkshire.

However, coronavirus restrictions may change funeral plans.

“The process for deciding when a state funeral should be held for a person other than the sovereign is relatively unclear, not least since it happens so rarely and at long historical intervals,” a 2013 parliamentary document says.

“There is no official process set out in public,” it adds


Most of Britain’s monarchs are buried in Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, but both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried in a mausoleum in Frogmore Gardens.

Prince Philip will likely be buried at Frogmore Gardens.

Will the line of succession change after Prince Philip dies?

The Duke of Edinburgh was not in line for the throne, and the line will not change upon him dying.

Prince Charles is first in the line of succession, Prince William is second in line to the throne, followed by Kate and William's three children, George, Charlotte and Louis.

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