Operation Unicorn: Death of HM Queen Elizabeth II - Scotland Magazine
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Operation Unicorn: Death of HM Queen Elizabeth II

Operation Unicorn is the name given to the formal plans in the eventuality that Queen Elizabeth II should die at Balmoral, which was one of her favourite places So what…

Operation Unicorn is the name given to the formal plans in the eventuality that Queen Elizabeth II should die at Balmoral, which was one of her favourite places

So what is Operation Unicorn, what does it mean for Scotland, and what happens next?

Operation Unicorn

On the afternoon of September 8 2022, HM Queen Elizabeth II passed away at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland.

Operation Unicorn is the codename given to the plans in the eventuality that the Queen died in Scotland. .

As the Nation pays its respects, here is what happened in the days following her death in Scotland. 

operation unicorn
The Crown of Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Lying in State 

As Operation Unicorn began, on Sunday 11 September, the queen’s coffin was moved from Balmoral Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. From here the coffin was taken in procession up the Royal Mile to St Giles’ Cathedral, where a service was attended by the Royal Family.

Her coffin was then laid at rest at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh for 24 hours. The public were allowed to visit and pay their respects. 

On Tuesday 13 September her coffin left Edinburgh and Scotland for the final time and was flown down to London where her funeral will take place.

The Queen held a great fondness of Scotland and spent many summers in her royal residence in Balmoral. Her mother, the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore, was from a Scottish family, who lived at Glamis Castle in Angus.

HM Queen Elizabeth II was regularly seen in her tweeds and wellies on the Balmoral Estate, embracing the natural environment of the Cairngorms, and watching her corgis run free. In the documentary, Our Queen at Ninety, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Princess Eugenie, said of Balmoral, “I think Granny is most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands.”

operation unicorn
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles pose after planting a tree at the Balmoral Cricket Pavilion, to mark the start of the official planting season for the Queen’s Green Canopy in 2021. (Photo by Andrew Milligan-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

From Scotland to London

On Tuesday 13 September, five days after the Queen’s death, her coffin was transported to London and, on Wednesday 14 September a procession took place from Buckingham Palace to Westminster. The Queen will be lying in state at Westminster Hall beneath the 11th Century hall’s medieval timber roof and on top of her coffin, the Imperial State Crown, orb and sceptre, will be placed. For four days the public are welcome to see her and pay respects. 

King Charles III

King Charles III, as he will be known, made the following statement after the news of his mother’s passing. 

”The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family.

”We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms, and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. 

”During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held.”

Following the Queen’s death, Charles immediately became King. Charles was officially proclaimed as King Charles III at the Accession Council at 10:00am on Saturday the 10 September 2022.

​​The King’s declaration

A public proclamation, accompanied by a fanfare of trumpeters, was made declaring Charles as the new King. An official known as the Garter King of Arms made this announcement from a balcony above Friary Court in St James’s Palace

He called: “God save the King”, and for the first time since 1952, the national anthem will be played with the words “God Save the King”.

Gun salutes were fired in Hyde Park, the Tower of London and from naval ships, and the proclamation announcing Charles as the King was read in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

The Funeral 

There was a remembrance service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Friday, attended by the prime minister and other senior ministers.

The funeral will take place in on Monday 19 September at Westminster Abbey where she had her coronation in 1953 and married Philip in 1947. The day has been declared a bank holiday in honour of the Queen. 

operation unicorn
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh wave to the crowds as they ride in an open carriage along Princes Street in Edinburgh during their Coronation State Visit to Scotland, June 24th 1953. (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)


Read more:

The Queen in Scotland

In memory of HM Queen Elizabeth II

Leave your message of condolence for the Royal Family on the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II



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