Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, monarch of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth realms, which includes England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, huge swathes of the internet have become a field of tributes.
Bare and black are the style of the day, at least for the whole multimillion-dollar landowning apparatus that is the British monarchy. The Queen of the United Kingdom and many other sovereign nations for seven decades, Elizabeth died at the ripe old age of 96 in Balmoral castle after she was placed under medical supervision earlier Thursday, according to Buckingham Palace officials who wrote about the queen’s health in the morning.
BBC broadcasters was wearing black before the news actually dropped, hinting at dire news. Of course, the official Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more were all tuned to the news as soon as it became official. But as soon as the monarchy made the official announcement, practically all websites affiliated with the royal family flipped over into mourning mode.
The main royal website displays a black page reading simply “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
The website instead shares a black page, saying they are effectively down while they make “appropriate changes,” likely tied to remembering Elizabeth while elevating then-Prince—now-King Charles III.
Other websites are similarly down. The online shop for the royal collection is also down. Trying to enter the Royal Collection Trust website also displays a black screen with a picture of their multi-decade monarch. The official site for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall is similarly down.
The one exception to this, as of reporting, is the official site for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle. The site does not yet mention their grandmother’s passing, and seems to have been outside the official preparations made for Queen Elizabeth’s death. The page for the Duke of Sussex directed through the UK Prince of Wales site is presented in mourning.
This isn’t just solid lines of communication from the British royals. This was all part of the plan, according to an extensive report from The Guardian. After the top royal passes, and after the prime minister is contacted (in this case the only just instituted Liz Truss), the public wasn’t likely made aware for some time until finally, a footman in mourning clothes pins a black-edged notice to the gate. The BBC will have activated its radio alert transmission system. RATS also happens to be referred to as the “royal about to snuff it” alarm. The Guardian’s report mentions specifically that the website will turn into the black death mask version we can see now.
The preparations enacted for George VI, the last UK to die, were called “Hyde Park Corner.” The codename for Elizabeth II’s death has been called “London Bridge.”
The protocol has been so well-established that you can tell immediately where BBC radio enacted their part in the process of announcing the queen’s death.
The royal family hasn’t exactly been on the cutting edge on the latest developments in tech, at least on their public facing side. Instead of coming in her own carriage to celebrate her full 70 years of rule in June, Elizabeth instead stuck a video clip of a 1953 movie in her place. Prince Charles talked up the need for more clean-running cars and ethically-sourced fuel by promoting his Aston Martin that runs on surplus wine and whey from cheese.
So this sense of trying to combine the stiff-upper-lipped staidness of British aristocracy with modern technology often feels anachronistic at the best of times. The tweets haven’t taken long to drop out as well. Charles, whose head has not even been given the chance the stretch the royal crowns rim, put out a statement via the royal family Twitter.
But even still, the news of the queens’ demise travelled incredibly fast. The Wikipedia pages for both the passed queen and new king were updated within the hour of the monarchy’s official notice. The baristas behind the bar of a Starbucks off the side of the highway in the middle of Long Island rattled off about the news even as this article was being typed.
But with all of this planned well in advance, and with days of mourning and funerals already incoming, we can expect this “London Bridge” internet graveyard to be around for many days to come.