Skip to navigationSkip to content

News of Queen Elizabeth II's death broke on Twitter before the BBC

Leon Neal
A person holds a smartphone with an image of Queen Elizabeth II as their screensaver. 
  • Adario Strange
By Adario Strange

Media & entertainment reporter based in New York


The Sept. 8 death of Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle in Scotland is a solemn moment for the UK. The shift in royal history is being reflected on the country’s leading news channel, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which has activated its protocol for handling the 96-year-old monarch’s death after standing at the ready for decades.

The plans called for BBC 1, 2, and 4 to interrupt all programming and briefly shift to a display of the network’s famous logo before broadcasting a unified message confirming the queen’s passing.

But in the end, the news of her death broke first on social media, with a post from the royal family’s Twitter account that disrupted decades of tradition. Within minutes, the tweet had nearly half a million retweets and 1 million likes.

The BBC’s tweet appeared two minutes later.

King Charles III assumes the throne via tweet

Roughly half an hour after the death announcement, her son, Charles, now known as King Charles III, released a personal statement on Twitter and Facebook.

Following the announcements, the official plan dictated that the UK prime minister, in this case the newly appointed Liz Truss, would meet with King Charles to deliver a broadcast to the entire country, and the world, sometime in the evening hours following the queen’s death.

Operation London Bridge is put into action

The plans for handling the queen’s passing were revealed in previous reports through its code named Operation London Bridge, or London Bridge Is Down. Part of the protocol, which has historically been preceded by blue notification lights in UK commercial radio stations, includes a switch to inoffensive music played on the nation’s radio stations.

Viewers also may notice that many UK television hosts are nearly uniformly outfitted in black suits and ties, blouses, or dresses as a visual nod of mourning for the royal.

Oli Scarff
People walk past the headquarters of the BBC in London.

Along with the BBC’s website, the royal family’s official website was immediately updated to display a simple visual of Queen Elizabeth II alerting visitors to her passing, a message that will be mirrored on the royal family’s social media channels on platforms including Twitter.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.