Queen Elizabeth’s funeral: London braces for massive security operation


Some have compared the scale of the event to the London Olympics, but in reality the state funeral — the first in Britain since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965 — is likely to dwarf the 2012 sporting spectacle.

Dubbed “Operation London Bridge”, the British royal arrangements have been carefully scrutinized for years by the many agencies involved, with the queen herself signing off on all the details before her death.

In an interview with Sky News earlier this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said of the scale: “The London Marathon, the carnival, the previous royal weddings, the Olympics — that’s all if you think about it.”

The three police forces operating in the British capital — the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police and British Transport Police — launched well-rehearsed plans across London as soon as Elizabeth II’s death was announced on September 8.

The funeral will be the “biggest police event” ever carried out by London’s Metropolitan Police force, Deputy Commissioner Stuart Cundy told reporters on Friday.

“As a single event, this is bigger than the 2012 Olympics. It’s bigger than the Platinum Jubilee weekend. And the range of officers, police staff and everyone who helps the operation is truly incredible,” he said.

It will also be the “biggest global protection operation the Met Police has ever undertaken”, with “hundreds of world leaders and VIPs” descending on London, he said.

Asked how the particularly high-profile guests would be transported to London’s Westminster Abbey for the funeral service, Cundy declined to give specific details, saying it would not be suitable for a “safe and secure event and police operation”.

Meanwhile, the huge logistical operation has involved many other aspects, such as doctors, toilets, street cleaning and road closures.

The size of the crowd to pay their last respects is “impossible” to predict, according to Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Andy Byford.

In an interview with Britain’s PA Media news agency, Byford described the funeral as the “biggest event” the transport network has ever seen.

Compared to the Olympics, he said: “This is a bigger challenge. It’s a long term and although there are estimates, it’s impossible to say with certainty how many people will show up for the various elements, so we’ve assumed as many as possible and we’re aligning our service accordingly to come.”

Invitations have been sent to world leaders, politicians, public figures and European royalty, as well as more than 500 international dignitaries. Security considerations are overwhelming.

The British government is taking the lead on logistics but has declined to comment on specific “operational security arrangements”.

US President Joe Biden was one of the first to confirm attendance at the event, which will be attended by 2,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will also travel to London, as will other royalty and many world leaders.

Hundreds of police from other forces are assisting the Met, however the presence of so many VIPs will pile up the pressure.

“Everything will be negotiated,” Morgan said, explaining that some concessions will be made. There simply aren’t enough police and protection officers to provide an escorted convoy to everyone who would receive them in a single visit. So people are gathering on a logistical basis,” Morgan said.

Huge crowds have waited for hours to see the Queen lie in state before her funeral.

Simon Morgan is a former royal protection officer who between 2007 and 2013 was responsible for overseeing the royal family and the new king.

“It’s not going to be full,” Morgan, who now runs the private security firm Trojan Consultancy, told CNN. “The policing and security plan behind it is a dual operation: security and public safety are inherent.”

Morgan said events surrounding state funerals have been going on for decades. “London Bridge was built in the 60s. It has had to be revised at least three times a year.

“Elements are discussed and indeed some elements have already been used in isolation,” he said, citing the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, royal weddings and the Platinum Jubilee as examples.

Periodic reviews were essential to address the changing nature of security threats — from Irish nationalism in the 1970s and 80s to Islamic extremism in recent times.

White House aides declined to provide specific security details for President Biden’s visit, but said they are working with their British counterparts to ensure the president’s security requirements are met. The FBI will monitor potential threats and share any information with the UK’s MI5 security service.

When reports emerged last week that world leaders would have to travel by bus to the funeral, US officials were skeptical and dismissed the suggestion that Biden would travel to Westminster Abbey by bus.

In 2018, when other world leaders traveled together in a bus to a World War I memorial in Paris, then US President Donald Trump got separated in his vehicle. The White House explained at the time that the separate trip was due to “security protocols.”

“Everything will be negotiated,” Morgan said, explaining that some concessions will be made. There simply aren’t enough police and protection officers to provide an escorted convoy to everyone who would receive them in a single visit. So people are gathering on a logistical basis,” Morgan said.

“There are no compromises in terms of security and many visiting dignitaries will be aware of the prospect of requiring their own protection teams.”

The police also have to consider the “fixed threat”, he said. “It’s someone fixated on a member of the royal family. Many of these people are under mental health orders and then brought to the attention of medical professionals and sometimes law enforcement.”

'Not my King': Anti-monarchy protesters face police crackdown in UK

Even “single cause” entrepreneurs are at risk, Morgan said. The force has already come under heavy criticism for its treatment of republican protesters.

“Each of these causes wants to use global media attention to highlight what is important to them,” he added.

Symon Hill, from Oxford, told CNN how he was aggressively arrested after shouting “not my king” at an event where he declared his support for Charles III. He said he was “overjoyed” when “the police intervened, grabbed me, handcuffed me and put me in the back of a police van.”

He added: “Surely arbitrary detention is not something we should have in a democratic society.”

According to Morgan, the police aim not to ban peaceful protests, but to ensure public order, as demonstrations can sometimes lead to confrontation when emotions run high.

“Police are very much in a state of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t,'” he said.

While the police are carrying out the operation, many others are involved, including the military, transport and public services.

Preparing London for the Queen's funeral has been a major operation decades in the planning.

Concerns about health are predominant. In addition to the official emergency services, St. Around 2,000 volunteers and staff from John Ambulance have provided 24-hour support in London and Windsor for his recumbent condition, as well as his funeral.

“In planning for this very rough, we estimated we would need about 1,000 volunteers, but more than twice that number have said they can make themselves available,” said Mike Gibbons of St. Commissioner of Operation John in a statement.
What the Queen's death means for UK tourists right now

Patrick Goulbourne, London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for operational resilience and control, told CNN his team had worked “with partners for many years”.

Fire safety inspections have been carried out in 40 key central transport hubs and around 160 fire inspections per day have also been carried out in hotels, restaurants, shops etc. In addition, 10 firemen and around 50 firefighters have been helping people queuing to see the Queen’s coffin.

CNN’s Lauren Said Moorhouse, Max Foster, Luke McGee, Duarte Mendonca, Christian Edwards, Kevin Lipta and Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.