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What happens to exhibitions when the Queen dies?

by Emily Wallin

The highly sensitive yet inevitable fact that the Queen will die will cause major disruption to events and exhibition organisers need to be prepared.

The country is expected to go into a 10-day period of mourning – which could see hundreds of events cancelled. Key locations and industries with royal connections could be particularly affected and matters of respect and dignity will have to be considered along with national guidelines for closures.

Insurers are warning that the capacity for national mourning cover to protect against losses in the event of the 96-year-old monarch’s death is dwindling. Organisers have reported being refused cover for high-capacity time periods.

Many insurance companies have stopped offering cover altogether, and others are turning down applications where maximum aggregated capacity for particular days has been reached.

John Rice, divisional director of Howden Insurance Brokers, told EN: “I would be advising all our clients to at least consider [national mourning cover]. If you rely on key dates for your income you need to consider whether you can afford not to.”

Major venues told EN they would work with organisers on contingency plans. Some organisers may be contractually protected if their force majeure clauses list the death of the monarch, but everyone needs to be prepared.

What is royal protocol for the death of a reigning monarch?

As the word’s longest-reigning monarch, an entire generation of people will never know life without Elizabeth II on the throne. But what will actually happen when she dies? What protocol is followed when a reigning monarch dies?

Rice says: “There is currently no official advice from Clarence House on how long a period of mourning would last, but it’s likely to be a period of 10 days. Within that time period there will be key days, such as the date of death or the date it is announced, the date of the funeral and also the date of the coronation, when we would expect everything to stop.

“It is fairly unprecedented because most of us will not have lived through a previous death of a monarch. But there will also be questions of public taste as to whether certain events can go ahead – such as we saw after the death of Princess Diana where the West End went dark for a day to mirror public sentiment.”

London Bridge is down

The official process, known as Operation London Bridge, will see The Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young, notify the prime minister. A “call cascade” will then take place take place informing the cabinet secretary (Britain’s highest-ranking civil servant) and a number of the most senior ministers and officials.

The public will be notified by a notice being placed on the gates of Buckingham Palace, then a statement will be released to the Press Association and other news outlets. TV channels will pull regular programmes and radio DJs on-air will see a blue light flash, which means to cut to news ASAP and blanket coverage will begin.

Many locations will be taken over by news crews from around the world. Specific spots next to Canada Gate, at the bottom of Green Park, have already been agreed by BBC, ITV, Sky, and others.

Ministers and senior civil servants will also receive an email from the cabinet secretary, upon receipt of this email, flags across Whitehall will be lowered to half-mast. The aim is that this can be done within 10 minutes.

Charles will immediately become king and be expected to make an announcement to the public at 6pm. His coronation will take place at a later date – another day likely to face significant disruption.

The day of the Queen’s death will be referred to as D-Day, with each following day leading up to the funeral known as D+1, D+2 etc.

The state funeral is expected to be held on D+10. The country will be given a national day of mourning, and all businesses including the London Stock Exchange are expected to close.

Officials are preparing for central London to “reach capacity” as citizens and foreign visitors flood into the capital to pay their respects.

Insurance

With the Queen already well into her 96th year, insurance premiums will only rise and capacity for cover is shrinking rapidly.

“This could be the single biggest insurance cost for most, but it is inevitable it will happen at some point, whether that’s within months or years, the question is just when,” says Rice.

“The need for national mourning cover will vary depending on the type of event and the venues, but it’s something everyone should be thinking about.

“Some sectors will be affected more than others – particularly those with royal patronage/connections or at royal parks and other key venues.

“Capacity for national morning cover is also dwindling, availability and appetite is limited. There is scope to restrict the limit of insurance purchased in order to keep the costs down and provide a contribution to the fallout

“There is also an aggregate effect, which impacts the availability of cover. Typically the summer months have more large sporting and large events, so insurers will have a limit for how much cover they are willing to provide on any given day.

“Organisers should be guided by their brokers on the level of cover they need and whether they are covered for a full mourning period or just key days. It is also important that organisations understand their obligations are under contract in order to fully understand the consequences in the event of a royal demise impacting their event.”

Publications

The death of the Queen holds implications for publications and social media posting as well as events.

The royal family’s website will change to a black holding page with a short statement confirming the queen’s death. The UK government website — GOV.UK — will display a black banner at the top. All government departmental social media pages will also show a black banner and no non-urgent content will be allowed to be published. Retweets are explicitly banned unless cleared by the central government head of communications.

All companies should consider public taste in terms of their own publications and social output.

Day of mourning 

The country will fall silent at 11am on the day of the state funeral.

It is understood the prime minister and the Queen have agreed that the day of the state funeral will be a “Day of National Mourning.”

Employers will not be ordered to give staff a day off, however most businesses are expected to close. If the funeral falls on the weekend or an existing bank holiday it is not expected that an extra bank holiday will be granted.

Large numbers of foreign dignitaries will be arriving in London to pay their respects and transport links could be closed on key dates, potentially leading to further disruptions to exhibitors and visitors travelling to events.

At 96-years-old the Queen celebrated 70 years on the throne this year,  but wasn’t able to attend all of the Platinum Jubilee events due to health concerns and discomfort. With Her Majesty’s duties already reduced and reports of mobility issues businesses need contingency plans in place.

From cancellations and travel issues, to taste and social media, exhibition organisers need to be prepared, and the sooner the better.

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