Saturday, September 17, 2022



The last items (maybe not) about Her Maj . . .


AS most people will have come to realise from news accounts, the phase “London Bridge is Down” referred to the death and funeral plan for Her Maj, Queen Elizabeth 11.

Some comments:
  • The funeral plan is also known as Operation London Bridge.
  • The plan includes the announcement of her death, the period of official mourning, and the details of her state funeral. The plan was created as early as the 1960s and revised many times in the years before her death in 2022.
  • The phrase "London Bridge is down" was used to communicate the death of the Queen to the prime minister of the United Kingdom and key personnel, setting the plan into motion.
  • Some critical decisions relating to the plan were made by the Queen herself, while some were left to be determined by her successor.
  • Reporting on the preparations, The Guardian described them as "planned to the minute" with "arcane and highly specific" details.
  • Several other plans were also created to support the implementation of Operation London Bridge, such as Operation Unicorn, the plan that details what would happen if the Queen were to die in Scotland.
  • Operation Overstudy was the plan to be followed if the Queen had died outside the UK.
  • Running concurrently with Operation London Bridge are operations concerning King Charles III's accession to the throne and his coronation.
  • The plans for the event of the Queen's death and funeral would occur concurrently with other related plans, including the plans for the accession of King Charles III to the throne, Operation Spring Tide, and his coronation plans, Operation Golden Orb.
  • Pre-determined phrases have been used as codenames for plans relating to the death and funeral of a royal family member, initially to prevent Buckingham Palace switchboard operators from learning of the death prior to a public announcement.
  • When King George VI died in 1952, key government officials were informed with the phrase "Hyde Park Corner."

The song "London Bridge Is Falling Down" is a traditional English nursery rhyme and singing game which deals with the dilapidation of London Bridge and attempts, realistic or otherwise, to repair it.

It may date back to bridge-related rhymes and games of the Late Middle Ages, but the earliest records of the rhyme in English are from the 17th century.

The lyrics were first printed in close to their modern form in the mid-18th century and became popular, particularly in Britain and the United States, during the 19th century.

The modern melody was first recorded in the late 19th century.

The rhyme is often used in a children's singing game, with most versions having similar actions to those used in the rhyme "Oranges and Lemons". The most common is that two players hold hands and make an arch with their arms while the others pass through in single file. The "arch" is then lowered at the song's end to "catch" a player.

Some possible meanings of the rhyme:
  • That it relates to the supposed destruction of London Bridge by Olaf II in 1014 (or 1009).
  • That that the song refers to the burying, perhaps alive, of children in the foundations of the bridge. This was based around the idea that a bridge would collapse unless the body of a human sacrifice was buried in its foundations. Bodies were found beneath London Bridge in 2007 while building work was being carried out for the London Dungeons tourist attraction.
  • Until the mid-eighteenth century the Old London Bridge was the only crossing on the Thames in London. It was damaged in a major fire in 1633, but in the fire of 1666 this damage acted as a fire break and prevented the flames from further damaging the bridge and crossing to the south side of the Thames. New London Bridge was opened in 1831 and survived until it was replaced in 1972.
When New London Bridge was replaced in 1972, the 1831 bridge was dismantled and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

London Bridge in Arizona

So who is “my fair lady” referred to in the song? Some possibilities:
  • Virgin Mary: The Viking attack was on 8 September 1009, the traditional birthday of the Virgin Mary; they burned the bridge but could not take the city, it was protected by the 'fair lady'.
  • Matilda of Scotland (c. 1080–1118): Henry I's consort, who between 1110 and 1118 was responsible for the building of the series of bridges that carried the London–Colchester road across the River Lea and its side streams between Bow and Stratford.
  • Eleanor of Provence (c. 1223–1291): Consort of Henry III, who had custody of the bridge revenues from 1269 to about 1281.
  • A member of the Leigh family of Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, who have a family story that a human sacrifice lies under the building.
  • The River Lea, which is a tributary of the Thames.

In a Bytes post last week I mentioned that Operation London Bridge is Down was a meticulous plan that had a spanner put in the works by Harry and Meghan being present in the UK at the time of Her Maj’s death.

There is an interesting origin of the phrase “throw a spanner in the works”, which means deliberately or otherwise cause disruption, to interfere with the smooth running of something. The analogy with the effects of throwing a spanner into the gears and pistons of an engine is obvious.

According to the website The Phrase Finder, the first recorded usage is from our Kiwi cousins, who no doubt refer to it as a “spinner”, rather than a “spanner”.

The first record of the phrase is in The Parliamentary Debates of the New Zealand Parliament, 1932:
"Of course, every honourable member has a right to express his opinions, even of a critical nature, but I do think we should expect them to help and not throw a spanner in the gears."
The Phrase Finder further comments:
Given the date and the location, it may be that the NZ speaker above was referring to, or at least influenced by, a tale from Whangamomona, which is a township on New Zealand's North Island. There's a plaque displayed at the site of what claims to be the oldest oil well in the world. This is what it says:



Despite the admonition that local councils should involve themselves only with the 3 R’s – rates, roads and rubbish – the council under which both my home and office are situated has chosen to take another of its stupid and politicised actions.

One of the councillors of the Inner West Council, which includes the suburbs of Ashfield (office) and Marrickville (home), got up during a Council meeting and took a painting of Her Maj off the wall, eliciting a response from the Mayor that it was now “redundant”. Amidst laughter and wisecracks from other councillors, and despite a voice from the gallery telling them to be respectful, the painting remained on the floor and was reinstated only after the meeting finished. The council has sought advice from the Commonwealth on correct protocol.

As Kate commented to me, there won’t be 7 kilometre queues and 22 hour waits when they pass on.



David Beckham, former captain of the English football (ie soccer) team, player for Real Madrid and husband of former Spice Girl Victoria, paid his respects at the casket of Her Maj and gets today’s Yay For the Day.

Beckham was incognito for hours in The Queue wearing a cap and a long coat before he was recognised. He joined The Queue at 2.00am and had his cover blown just after midday. 

David Beckham, centre in black cap and coat.

Early on a Member of Parliament, who was allowed to jump the queue and permitted to take 4 persons with him, offered Beckham the opportunity to immediately enter Westminster Hall. To his credit, Beckham declined and stayed queuing for 13 hours until he reached Her Maj lying in state.

Beckham gets his brief moment to pay his respects

He later commented that his grandfather Joseph West, a staunch royalist and the man Beckham has called his ‘real-life hero’, would have been disappointed.

Way to go, Becko.


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