The code word system that's used for royal deaths

Sophie Charlotte Thompson
·5-min read
Photo credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Photo credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It's fair to say that when you're part of the Royal Family, things are done a little differently. And even death is no exception.

As we reel from the sad news of Prince Philip's death at the age of 99, you perhaps won't be shocked to learn that each senior member has an assigned code name for when the eventual does happen, and the news needs to be broken between household members, family and the military before it becomes public knowledge.

When you're as major as the Queen, your funeral is also planned way before you die. Or in Her Majesty's case, 60 years and counting. Yep, Queen Elizabeth II has had her funeral laid out since the 1960s, and there's even several dress rehearsals every year to make sure everything runs smoothly when the time comes.

If you're a fan of The Crown, you'll probably already be familiar with some of the code names that are used to break the news - which usually come from a private secretary. In one episode in season 4, we get a dramatised glimpse of Charles' near-death experience on a ski slope when an avalanche strikes, and hear his code name, "Operation Menai Bridge" for the first time, as he's presumed dead.

Photo credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Menai Bridge is the name of a suspension bridge in Wales, and as Charles is the Prince of Wales, it makes sense.

But you might be interested to learn that every code name when it comes to death, is that of a bridge - mostly for simplicity. Outside of that, there are a couple of other names on the palace radar, however. These are mostly used for Royal visits, holidays abroad, and generally keeping the family safe when discussing them over hackable radio systems.

So, let's take a look at the Royal Family's code names that are used in the event of a royal family death or emergency...

The Queen

Photo credit: Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Photo credit: Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images

As the most senior member of the Royal Family, Her Majesty the Queen has a few different code names. When she's going out and about, it's of the upmost importance for the police and military to keep her safe, and for that - she's known as Sharon.

While it may seem hilarious on the surface, using such an ordinary name deters anyone who may have hacked the radio waves looking for insider info on the royal. Generally, they'll just refer to her as 'S' though. Very Gossip Girl.

When it comes to death, the Queen has arguably the most powerful code name of all: Operation London Bridge.

The Queen's private secretary will be the one responsible for informing people of importance and kicking planned protocol into action, by declaring "London Bridge is down."

Prince Philip

Photo credit: Samir Hussein/ Samir Hussein/WireImage
Photo credit: Samir Hussein/ Samir Hussein/WireImage

The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, has sadly passed away at the age of 99 years old. The bridge that will have been used as a code word in reference to his death, and may also be used in regards to his funeral, is 'Operation Forth Bridge'.

The actual Forth Bridge is a bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland - and as he's the Duke of Edinburgh, he's been given a bridge to match.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Photo credit: Pool/Samir Hussein
Photo credit: Pool/Samir Hussein

While William and Kate don't have funeral code names, they do have an alias that they use when they go on holiday or on royal tours. Making them sound a little more plain Jane than a Duke and Duchess, they're therefore known as Daphne Clark and Danny Collins.

Both names have the initials 'DC' which of course stand for the Duke/Duchess of Cambridge, and William shares his with an Al Pacino movie - although they're not thought to be connected.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Photo credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage
Photo credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Despite no longer being working members of the Royal Family, Prince Harry and Meghan did have code names before they left. Introducing: Davina Scott and David Stevens.

They definitely sound like a Hollywood power couple. But the pair used the names before they left the UK for California, mostly for Royal visits and holidays.

Prince Charles

Photo credit: Ian Vogler - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Photo credit: Ian Vogler - WPA Pool/Getty Images

As next in line to the throne, Prince Charles has inherited not one, but three different code names across his life. The first, and arguably most unexpected, is Unicorn.

That's right, the glittering, mythical creature was actually the nickname of our future King when he visited the United States in 1971. While there's no official reasoning behind it, we definitely think he's got a thing for rainbows and sparkles.

When Prince Charles does eventually become the King, there are a lot of protocols in place, as you can imagine.

It will be the first British coronation ceremony since 1953, and it will be huge. In fact, they've already started rehearsing for when it does happen. That being said, it deserves its own name, and it's been dealt Operation Golden Orb. During the ceremony, Charles will make his vow to God using a gold ball topped with a cross, resembling an orb, which is how the name came to be.

But after his 1988 skiing incident where he went missing, the family also have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. And despite already being used once (then thankfully being found alive), Prince Charles' death will be known as Operation Menai Bridge, after the Welsh suspension bridge, and him of course, being the Prince of Wales.

Princess Diana

Photo credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

If you've kept up to date with The Crown, you'll know that Princess Diana collaborated with journalist Andrew Morton on a book about her life as someone married into the Royal Family. The book was such a huge secret, that it even got its own secretive moniker: Noah.

The name was inspired by Morton's being described in a media report as "notable author and historian" - and Diana came up with it herself. Clever.

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