‘They set the agenda’: How the palace fed media appetite after the Queen’s death | Queen Elizabeth II


FFrom gamekeepers carrying her coffin outside Balmoral Castle to the sight of it slowly sinking across the floor of St George’s Chapel, nearly every step of Queen Elizabeth II’s last voyage has been exquisitely designed and conveyed to the world.

For decades, the palace’s top officials had refined London Bridge, the funeral plan, Operation Unicorn, should she die in Scotland, and Operation Spring Tide, the King’s programme. The Queen, who knew her agreed, was a “perfectionist”.


The Queen Mother’s funeral 20 years ago provided, in some ways, a rehearsal for the celebration – although this will be on a larger scale. On this occasion, too, there will be a parallel narrative. This was not just a queen’s funeral but also the enthronement of a new king, plans that were once again in the making.

However, feeding the media’s insatiable appetite for new content over the course of 11 days is a daunting task. In this, the palace proved to be an expert. Any void would be unwelcome, creating space for mischievous report. Therefore, day by day, new information and new photo opportunities are presented. She ensured that the momentum was maintained until the spectacular state funeral celebration and commissioning service.

It was an extraordinary moment that history had been waiting for. Everything was controlled. And they took full advantage of every moment. They kept surprising people. They set the news agenda throughout the mourning period. They set the narrative. They provided the media moments,” said Mark Borkowski, a senior PR official.

There were fixed and previous pieces. The highly poignant vigil of the princes, when members of the royal family guarded while lying in state, was first held around the coffin of George V in 1936. The Queen Mother was the first consort to be given the honor, in 2002.

Because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral, there were three vigils: while her coffin lay in St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh; in her reclining inside Westminster Hall; And finally, again in Westminster Hall, this time with her eight grandchildren. Each time, the photo was guaranteed to be on the front pages of the newspapers.

The Queen’s grandchildren hold a silent vigil around the coffin – VIDEO

The royal princess’s emotional six-hour journey—one she would later describe as “honor and privilege” and “humility and sophistication”—having made her way overland through the scenic heights of Balmoral to Edinburgh, was another strand delicately woven into the narrative. The rich images of the festive procession in Scotland and lounging while resting in Edinburgh were a bonus to the media and a welcome announcement for Scottish tourism.

Princess Anne looks on as the Queen’s coffin is carried onto a plane en route to London – VIDEO

The royal family honors were released in strict order of precedence and seniority, and were not released on the same day. First for the King at the King’s Speech, then the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex, with the Duke of York at the end, 10 days after his mother’s death.

The arrival of the sarcophagus by procession to Westminster Hall, and five days later, the major state funeral ceremonies at Westminster Abbey and the commissioning service at St George’s Chapel depended heavily on earlier royal funerals. Last-minute additions to the plans included the inclusion of NHS workers at the funeral, to reflect the trouble the country has been through through the Covid pandemic.

Much detailed thought has gone into King’s programme. For the first time the Accession Council was televised, colorful proclamations were recited across the country, and his visits to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Hillsborough cemented his accession.

‘God Save the King’: King Charles III officially announces Britain’s new monarch – video

“They were establishing a narrative and character, and they were subtly establishing what the new administration would look like, and it was very different from the Queen’s in many ways,” Borkowski said. “I felt spontaneous. They thought: How can we express Charles’ character? We took him out there, walking into the crowds when he first arrived at Buckingham Palace. All these delicate, groovy things that the Queen certainly wouldn’t have done in a million years. So, in fact, it shows So subtly that there is a point of difference.”

It was inevitable that the funeral took place against the background of family controversy. The question was about when and where Prince Andrew and Prince Harry are allowed to wear uniforms. A surprise tour of Windsor by William, Kate, Harry and Meghan created an acre of coverage and sought to counter speculation about the brothers’ strained relations.

William, Kate, Harry and Meghan suddenly appear in Windsor – VIDEO

But, such was the outpouring of other information, the palace was careful not to shift the focus away from the Queen herself.

“There was nothing recent about the way they did it. It was tried and trusted and well oiled for media use. And the media was very grateful for that. These things don’t last,” Borkowski said. “You can never sit still. A few years ago, they had some time to think and gather themselves. But we have moved on. “

With plans for Charles III’s coronation, said to be a less luxurious and costly affair than that of his mother, now in full swing, the palace does not have time to relax and congratulate itself on a monumental operation, which has been meticulously executed.