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What’s Happening in London During Queen Elizabeth II’s National Mourning

Both the traditional and more unexpected events that will take place in London following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Wherever you might be, in London or beyond, by now you will have been made aware of the once-in-our-lifetime news: Queen Elizabeth II has died. The historic, record-breaking, and most well-traveled British monarch passed away on Thursday, September 8, 2022, at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. “Operation London Bridge,” the code name for the extremely detailed funeral plans, originally devised in the 1960s by royals and government officials, has now been enacted, and, as its name suggests, revolves around London. Last week, a black sign was pinned to the Buckingham Palace gates by a footman, and overnight thousands gathered there to lay flowers, letters, and candles, and pay their final respects to the longest-running royal ruler of modern times. Here is everything set to take place in the city, with some elements you may not expect.

The official events

  • The bells have chimed: Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Windsor Castle all sounded their bells, letting them ring out in solemn tribute to the Queen’s reign at approximately noon on Friday, September 9.

  • The guns have saluted: At 1pm on the same day, 96 shots were fired, one for each year of the Queen’s life, in Hyde Park. The shots were made by 41 rounds—as Hyde is a Royal Park, it therefore allows 20 more rounds than the usual royal salute, of 21.

  • ​​There was a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, which was open to the public: At 6pm on Friday, September 9, a remembrance service was held at St Paul’s, attended by the Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and senior ministers. There were also 2,000 tickets available to members of the public.

  • ‘God Save the King’ was sung for the first time: At the end of the Queen's memorial service at St Paul's, the first official rendition of the slightly amended national anthem since 1952 was sung. “Queen” is changed to “King," and “her victorious” to “him victorious," reflecting that King Charles III is now the official British monarch. An unofficial version was already chanted by the crowds outside Buckingham Palace, as the new King arrived with the Queen Consort earlier in the day.

  • Trumpets were played: King Charles III was officially proclaimed King at St James’s Palace on Sunday, September 11. This was not open to the public, but rather the Accession Council, made up of MPs, civil servants, high commissioners, and the Lord Mayor of London. However, when the King attended his second meeting with the Ascension Council, also on Sunday, he was publicly proclaimed the new King following a fanfare of trumpets in a balcony above Friary Court in St James’s Palace.

  • Guns will salute again: This time the guns will fire in both Hyde Park and the Tower of London to mark Charles’s ascension to King. King Charles III’s official coronation is then not expected to take place for some time—the Queen did not have her coronation until 15 months after her father had passed away, to allow enough time for the nation to mourn its former ruler.

The less expected events

  • People you live in London will get an extra day off work: "Operation London Bridge" dictated that if the funeral were to fall on a working week day, it should be treated like a bank holiday, although it would not be named as such. However, King Charles III has now made it known that it will in fact be an official national bank holiday. Also according to "Operation London Bridge," the funeral should take place on the 10th day after the Queen’s death, which is Sunday 18 September. However, the 11th day, Monday 19 September, has been confirmed, also therefore ensuring it is a paid day off for the nation.

  • Members of the public will be able to view her coffin: The Queen’s coffin shall lie in state on a raised platform in Westminster Hall for approximately four days before her funeral, allowing members of the public to file past and see it. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to show up. It shall be moved from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall in a huge and slow public procession, made up of the military and other royals, through the streets—down the Mall, through Horse Guards, and past the Cenotaph—with space, it is said, for 1 million people to come and watch. This is likely to be broadcast on large screens in the city’s Royal Parks.

  • Corgis may star in the procession to Westminster Hall: This is a prediction from The Guardian, based on the fact that King Edward VII’s mourners were led by his fox terrier, Caesar, back in 1910.

  • Big Ben’s bongs will be muffled: On the day of the Queen’s funeral (Monday, September 19), Big Ben, or, as it’s officially known, Elizabeth Tower, will chime at 9am GMT, with its hammer officially muffled by a piece of leather.

  • Your words of condolence could be saved for all time: There is now an online book of condolences open for you to sign. As states: “A selection of messages will be passed onto members of the Royal Family, and may be held in the Royal Archives for posterity.”

  • London’s black cabs lined the mall: On Thursday, September 8, as soon as they heard the news of the Queen’s passing on their radios, more than 50 black cab drivers drove directly to The Mall to line the road leading to Buckingham Palace in an act of deep respect, before it was officially closed by police.

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