No, the Queen is Not Dead. Here's How to Spot a Hoax

A hoax announcement of Queen Elizabeth II's death sent social media into a frenzy—but many spotted some telltale signs the news was fake.

Hollywood Unlocked proclaimed the death of the world's longest reigning living monarch in a brief post on its website and Instagram on February 22.

Buckingham Palace has since confirmed the queen took part in her weekly phone call with the Prime Minister, on February 23, definitively putting paid to the rumor.

Several details indicated from the very start that the website's information was not accurate, including its suggestion the monarch had been due to attend British Vogue editor Edward Enninful's wedding. The queen does not attend celebrity weddings.

However, most significantly of all, there are detailed plans already in place about how her death will be announced.

In short, the news will be everywhere, all at once, and for a long time.

Plans codenamed "Operation London Bridge" will see a news flash go out on Britain's Press Association newswire at the same time a brief announcement is sent to news organizations around the world by the palace.

The language will be sensitive, formal and it is unlikely to give a huge amount of detail on the circumstances.

When Prince Philip died in April, 2021, the Buckingham Palace announcement read: "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

"His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."

The tone and content for the queen's husband were a far cry from Hollywood Unlocked's suggestion the queen had been "found dead," language more appropriate to a police press release.

The real announcement of the Queen's death will also be posted on the Royal Family's website, which will be transformed with a black background, while the website for the British Government will display a black banner at the top, according to a version of the plans leaked to Politico in September.

Social media profiles for U.K. Government departments will show a black banner while profile pictures will be changed to their official crest.

Queen Elizabeth II at Remembrance Sunday
Queen Elizabeth II attends the National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph, in London, on November 8, 2020. When the queen, who is alive and well, does die, an official announcement will be released by the Press Association. Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images

There is likely to be significant restraint shown by the British media in relation to any tip offs ahead of an official announcement, due to the severe reputational consequences of being wrong.

When Prince Philip retired in 2017 the queen called the entire Royal Household to London from across the country for the announcement, a move which was leaked to newspapers, including The Daily Mail.

The tabloid, however, swerved any temptation to proclaimed the demise of a leading royal despite the highly unusual move.

Instead, editors will likely prepare for the official announcement, implementing action plans devised over decades in the country's newsrooms.

Organizations around the world have pre-prepared obituaries while the stalwarts of U.K. royal reporting have days of coverage mapped out.

The BBC will sound a special alarm, the Radio Alert Transmission System, or (RATS), which dates back to the Cold War and is designed to withstand an attack on infrastructure, The Guardian reported.

It will go off in national and regional newsrooms around the country warning staff to dig out their pre-prepared content.

RATS has, according to The Guardian, a near-mythical status at the BBC and staff are known to joke that it stands for "royal about to snuff it."

U.K. broadsheet The Times has 11 days of coverage prepared while broadcaster ITV has conducted rehearsals using the name "Mrs Robinson" in place of the Queen.

The first member of the British Government to comment publicly will be the Prime Minister, who will have been alerted by phone with a message from a civil servant saying "London Bridge is down."

The news, in short, is very unlikely to come from a U.S. based gossip website with spurious information about a celebrity wedding.

When the last king, George VI died, even in America both houses of Congress stopped business for the day.

By contrast, Jason Lee, founder of Hollywood Unlocked, did not even see fit to cancel livestreaming a Miami listening party for Kanye West's Donda 2, Buzzfeed reported.

Prince Philip's Death Announced at Palace
The official Royal announcement of the death of Prince Philip placed on the gates of Buckingham Palace on April 9, 2021 in London. When Queen Elizabeth II dies the announcement will come through official channels. Joseph Okpako/Getty Images

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