What is Operation Unicorn?

THE Queen has died aged 96 – marking an end to her historic reign and sparking an outpouring of grief around the world.

Buckingham Palace today confirmed Her Majesty Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history, had passed away – making her son, Charles, King.

Queen Elizabeth II at the writing desk in her study in Balmoral Castle, Scotland, 1972

Queen Elizabeth II at the writing desk in her study in Balmoral Castle, Scotland, 1972Credit: Getty Images – Getty

The Queen passed away peacefully at her royal residence at Balmoral in Scotland.

What is Operation Unicorn?

Detailed plans had been drawn up in preparation for the tragic passing of Her Majesty.

Operation London Bridge was to be rolled out if the Queen died in England.

However as she passed away in Scotland, Operation Unicorn plans were launched instead.

On the evening of September 8, her death was announced – sending millions into mourning.

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” the palace said in a statement.

What happens in Operation Unicorn?

Initially, the Queen‘s coffin is expected to be at rest in the Ballroom at Balmoral Castle – her private home in Aberdeenshire.

In around two days’ time, the Queen’s coffin is expected to be driven by car from Balmoral to Edinburgh.

The long journey will take more than five hours, watched by mourners gathered along the route.

The coffin will then rest overnight in the oak-panelled Throne Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse – the Queen’s official residence in the Scottish capital.

The next day, in around three days’ time, it is expected to be taken in a procession along the Royal Mile in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town to historic St Giles’ Cathedral, where it will remain at rest for 24 hours.

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The monarch’s funeral will take place around 10 days after her passing.

Members of the royal family are expected to process behind the hearse.

A service will be held in St Giles’ and the Queen’s children are expected to stage a vigil around the Queen’s coffin – known as the Vigil of the Princes – while it lies in the cathedral.

Members of the public are expected to be allowed in to file past the Queen’s coffin to pay their respects.

The Queen’s coffin is expected to be flown to London on September 13, where she will be at rest at Buckingham Palace.

A rehearsal for the procession of the coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster will also take place.

The next day, the Queen’s lying in state is expected to begin in Westminster Hall – Operation Marquee – following a ceremonial procession through London. It will last four full days.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will conduct a short service following the coffin’s arrival.

Hundreds of thousands of people will file past the coffin on its catafalque and pay their respects, just as they did for the Queen Mother’s lying in state in 2002.

The management of the queues outside is Operation Feather.

Senior royals are also expected to pay their own moving tribute, standing guard at some stage around the coffin – the tradition known as the Vigil of the Princes.

The Queen’s state funeral is expected take place at Westminster Abbey in central London on September 19.

The original plans are for the Queen’s coffin to process on a gun carriage to the abbey, pulled by naval ratings – sailors – using ropes rather than horses.

Senior members of the family are expected to poignantly follow behind – just like they did for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The military will line the streets and also join the procession.

Heads of state, prime ministers and presidents, European royals and key figures from public life will be invited to gather in the abbey, which can hold a congregation of 2,000.

The service will be televised, and a national two minutes’ silence is expected to be held.

The same day as the funeral, the Queen’s coffin will be taken to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for a televised committal service.

Later in the evening, there will be a private interment service with senior members of the royal family.

The Queen’s final resting place will be the King George VI memorial chapel, an annex to the main chapel – where her mother and father were buried, along with the ashes of her sister, Princess Margaret.

Philip’s coffin will move from the Royal Vault to the memorial chapel to join the Queen’s.

Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022Credit: Getty

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