Operation London Bridge


Delegates to meetings of the Standing Joint Committee have enquired what would be expected of the Confederation and/or member towns in the event of the death of the Sovereign. Discreet enquiries of the relevant authorities have established (on the assumption that past precedents are followed) that the Lord Warden will be charged with “causing (the formal proclamation of accession of the new Monarch to be) proclaimed and published in the usual places within (his) jurisdiction with the traditional Solemnities and Ceremonies”. This is in addition to the general arrangement whereby High Sheriffs have a similar duty within each county and dates from the time when the Sheriffs’ jurisdiction did not extend to the Cinque Ports. Lord Boyce proposes to make his reading of the proclamation at the entrance to Maison Dieu House, Dover (the Town Council offices). In addition to members of the general public and local school children (assuming the accession occurs during term-time), the following official guests will be invited to attend:-
• The mayors of the 14 Cinque Port towns
• The Admiralty Judge of the Cinque Ports
• The Chaplain to the Lord Warden
• The Deputy Constable of Dover Castle
• The Registrar and Seneschal
• The Admiralty Judge Surrogate
• The Joint Solicitor
• The Town Clerk of Dover
If the Lord Warden is not available for any reason (for example is he is abroad or indisposed) either the Deputy Constable of Dover Castle or the Registrar and Seneschal will make the reading on his behalf.
The Town Clerk of Dover will make the necessary arrangements for a suitable public address system to be available for the reading and for the raising/lowering of flags in the immediate vicinity (see below).
Official guests attending the formal reading by the Lord Warden should wear robes/uniform. It is of course for the Town Mayor of Dover at the time to give or withhold formal consent to the wearing of mayoral insignia by other guests but, in accordance with long-established practice within the Confederation, Dover have indicated that such consent will almost certainly be forthcoming. Visiting mayors will be advised in the unlikely event that consent is withheld. Assuming mayoral insignia are permitted, the jewel should be worn on a black ribbon without the chain (or shrouded in a small black bag/purse), as a symbol of mourning. Mayoral robes should be worn with a small black rosette. Otherwise, civilian dress should be smart and sombre, with a black tie for men and a black rosette for women. The Admiralty Oar of the Cinque Ports and Dover’s mace (with black bows tied around the shafts) will be displayed, but other maces will not.
Once he has read the proclamation, in Dover, Lord Boyce will invite the mayors of the Cinque Port towns to arrange for copies of the proclamation to be read, within their respective towns and for copies to be posted in the places where public notices (e.g. relating to elections) are usually displayed. The necessary copies of the proclamation will be distributed by the Registrar or, in his absence, by the Joint Solicitor.
Although the timetable is not rigidly fixed in advance and may vary by a day or two, the proclamation has generally been read nationally for the first time, at St James’s Palace in London, on the day after the death of the Sovereign (D+1 – “Proclamation Day”). The Lord Warden and High Sheriffs are expected to make their readings at 12.30 pm the following day (D+2).
To allow time for the Cinque Port mayors attending the reading of the proclamation, in Dover, to return to their respective towns, local readings by them (and mayors/chairmen of boroughs/districts throughout Kent and East Sussex) are provisionally scheduled for 3.00 pm the same day. If this falls during mid-winter, it may be too dark for local readings at 3.00 pm on D+2, in which case they may be postponed until the following morning. It is for each member town/mayor to decide which are the appropriate places for the proclamation to be read and copies posted but, as the timetable is very tight, it is expected that town clerks should plan these arrangements in advance, discreetly and in strictest confidence.
All Union flags (and Council or Cinque Ports flags, if flown) should be lowered to half-mast immediately after the death of the Sovereign has been formally announced and remain at half-mast until 8.00 am on the day after the funeral. However, they should be raised to the mast-head from 11.00 am on Proclamation Day (D+1) until 1.00 pm the following day, by which time the readings by the Lord Warden and High Sheriffs will have been completed. They should then be returned to half-mast until after the day of the funeral, but those in the immediate vicinity of local readings by Cinque Port mayors and other civic heads should be temporarily raised to the mast-head for the duration of the readings.
The Registrar will forward confirmation of the detailed arrangements (including timings) by e-mail, to all 14 town clerks of member towns, immediately information is received from the Privy Council office, which is expected to happen on D+1. To enable these arrangements to be activated when required, each town clerk is asked to specify a principal e-mail address and telephone number (as well as alternatives) which should be used for this purpose and to notify any changes, to the Registrar, promptly. A form which can be used for this purpose can be downloaded here. Please bear in mind that these events may occur outside the normal working week and include personal/home contact details accordingly! These will be shared only with the Joint Solicitor (in case she is required to deputise for the Registrar) and will not be used for any other purpose.
To achieve consistency across his jurisdiction, the Lord Warden requests all mayors to preface their local readings of the proclamation with the following remarks:-
“We have all been greatly saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, after the longest reign in our nation’s history and a lifetime of selfless and devoted service to our country and to the Commonwealth.”
“However, the Crown never dies and, even as we mourn our late Queen, a new King has acceded to the throne and I have been charged by the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce, with reading the following formal proclamation, issued by the Accession Council.”
The Mayor reads the formal proclamation.
After the proclamation has been read:-
The Mayor will say: “God Save The King”
All present join in saying: “God save The King”
Finally, the Mayor will call for “Three cheers for His Majesty the King – hip, hip, hurrah, etc…”

Bearing in mind the evolution of the news media and other means of communication since the last accession, member towns are encouraged to invite local news media to witness the reading of the proclamation by their mayors. The text will be published on the Confederation website after the proclamation by the Lord Warden and, if circumstances permit, member towns are urged to post the text of the proclamation on their websites and social media.
Although it is for High Sheriffs to read the proclamation elsewhere within each county, the Privy Council office have asked that local arrangements be agreed with the respective Lords Lieutenant, who will have a coordinating role. Accordingly, the arrangements set out above have been agreed with the Lords Lieutenant of Kent and East Sussex.
Some of the member towns of the Confederation are also home to the local district council, whose chairman will be invited by the High Sheriff to arrange for the proclamation to be read on his behalf. It would be unseemly for ‘rival’ readings of the proclamation to take place in the same town, at the same time and, in these cases, town clerks are asked to liaise with the relevant officer of the district council to avoid such duplication and for both civic heads to take part in the same ceremony. In any case, such coordination would be helpful in planning the provision of books of condolence and the identification/management of areas for floral tributes etc., which are very much a matter for local discretion and need to be planned accordingly.
For some years now, the National Association of Civic Officers (NACO), which represents mayoral and civic support staff, has published guidance to help their members prepare for the death of a senior member of the Royal family, aspects of which would be equally applicable in the event of the death of some other prominent figures, both national and local. This guidance is now in its 4th edition and, by kind permission of NACO, may be downloaded here.
Obviously, preparations of this nature are extremely sensitive and authorised users of the Confederation website are requested to treat the subject and the NACO guidance with great discretion. The guidance should not be disseminated or published more widely, without express approval.
In reading the NACO guidance, it should be borne in mind that much of it is written from the perspective of London Boroughs and other principal local authorities and, as far as the Cinque Ports are concerned, some of the content is only directly applicable to Hastings, as the sole surviving Cinque Port borough. The key point is that all member towns should make their own discreet preparations, so that they are not found wanting and open to criticism within their local communities, when the situation arises. Part 5 of the NACO Guidance refers to local authorities searching their records for information about “local customs and practices”, for example following the death of HM King George VI. In reality, this is likely to be of limited assistance due, to the subsequent re-structuring of local government. In 1952, Sir Winston Churchill was Lord Warden, but he was Prime Minister and so the circumstances were very different. Also, of course, there have been enormous changes, during the intervening period, in communications media and the way of which communities react to major, national events.
Although the Cinque Ports have no role in the funeral of the monarch, since the early days of the Confederation they have enjoyed Honours at Court, including a role in the Coronation of a new Sovereign. That role has changed over the years and lapsed for a time during the 18th and 19th centuries. Involvement in the Coronation ceremony is not an automatic right and has to be claimed and approved on each occasion. However, Barons of the Cinque Ports were accorded a formal role at all four coronations during the 20th. century. Informally, the Confederation has been advised that a future Coronation is likely to be very different from previous events, with many fewer participants and guests. On the assumption that, when the occasion arises, the Confederation would again wish to claim its traditional privilege, it is by no means certain that this would be granted at all, or to the same extent.