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The Royal Code Name System That People Aren't Supposed To Be Privy To

We know their names: Charles, Camilla, William, Kate, Harry, Meghan. But did you know that the British royal family also go by secret code names? Kings, dukes, and duchesses need covert monikers — either for security reasons or simply to communicate in private. And some of these code words are pretty unexpected. We share some of the best with you here.

Queen Elizabeth

“Sharon”

As the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth had several code names. One such moniker was said to be Sharon, used by close staff, such as aides and bodyguards, and military personnel. While it may sound like a funny choice of name, it was paramount for security; it added a layer of secrecy in case anyone was eavesdropping. “S” was also apparently used, believed to stand for “Sovereign.”

Operation London Bridge

Long before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022, a top-secret plan was in place for the days following her death, and it was called Operation London Bridge. This course of action was established as early as the 1960s, and following the news of her death, the British prime minister and other key personnel would have received the coded message “London Bridge is down.” The protocol listed many intricate instructions, including flying flags at all government departments at half-mast and ringing all church bells with leather mufflers to make their sound more mournful.

“Kittyhawk”

When the late Queen set foot on American soil, she was referred to by a rather surprising code name: “Kittyhawk.” Does this name, coined by the United States Secret Service, refer to North Carolina’s state bird? And if so, why? The reasons for this remain unclear, though we guess that’s the point. They don’t call it the Secret Service for nothing.

“Cabbage”

Did you know that the late Duke of Edinburgh would refer to his wife as “Cabbage?” Granted, cabbages are good for you, but they also carry certain undesirable connotations. Surprisingly, the word may have come from parts of France where the expression “mon petit chou” is a term of endearment. Everything sounds way better in French!

Operation Unicorn

Operation Unicorn was the plan to be put into action should the Queen have died in Scotland rather than England. And this is actually what occurred when Queen Elizabeth passed away at Balmoral Castle in September 2022. It’s since been described as part of the aforementioned Operation London Bridge.

“Lilibet”

A less formal and more family-oriented name for Her late Majesty was Lilibet. Where did that come from? A variation on “Elizabeth,” this one dates right back to when she was reportedly still in diapers and had trouble saying her own name. Showing they have a sense of fun, the royals turned her best attempt at pronouncing it into a nickname for the future monarch. Harry and Meghan famously named their daughter this cute moniker.

King Charles

“Unicorn”

The royals can possibly be classed as a rare and exotic species, so this could be why King Charles has the secret name of “Unicorn.” Either that, or he’s a fan of rainbows and glitter. Assigned to him by the United States Secret Service, Unicorn covers him during visits to America. The Secret Service are also known to use “Principal” as another code name for the current monarch.

Operation Menai Bridge

It’s the name of the first iron suspension bridge ever built, but Menai Bridge also has huge royal significance. In the event of King Charles III’s death, Operation Menai Bridge would immediately be put into operation. The bridge is located in Anglesey, an island in Wales, which might explain the code name: before becoming King, Charles was known as the Prince of Wales.

“Fred and Gladys”

Believe it or not, Fred and Gladys are the King and Queen Consort of Great Britain. Yes, Charles and Camilla have long used these nicknames for each other, which come from The Goon Show, a long-running 1950s and 1960s British radio comedy series. They’re said to have called each other Fred and Gladys since they dated back in their twenties, particularly in their private conversations.

Operation Golden Orb

It sounds like the title of an adventure novel, yet Operation Golden Orb is actually the code name given to King Charles’ coronation ceremony, which apparently won’t be happening until 2023. His wife, Camilla, has become the Queen Consort and will join him in what will reportedly be a shorter and less lavish event than usual at Westminster Abbey. Charles’ late mother was publicly crowned in the same location.

Prince William and Kate Middleton

“Danny Collins” and “Daphne Clark”

Back when they were just the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate’s appearances remained secret thanks to two regular-sounding handles: Danny Collins and Daphne Clark. Intended to reflect the initials of their royal titles, “DC,” the names should still be fit for purpose. That’s because the couple recently gained the titles Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Apparently, they don’t yet have funeral operation code names like other members of the royal family.

“Wombat”

William the Wombat? Yes, apparently this is what he was called following a royal visit to the Land Down Under. Who compared him to the Australian animal? His own mother! It doesn’t sound like the young prince was too impressed with this impromptu nickname, though. Still, it stays with him to this day and is probably recalled with affection for the late Diana.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

“David Stevens” and “Davina Scott”

Even though they’re no longer officially working royals, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle still have royal code names. Meghan has talked about how her Hollywood acting background might have prepared her for life performing royal duties. While that didn’t work out in the end, maybe she still felt at home going under a different name. Davina Scott and David Stevens were presumably chosen to match the initials of their titles — a.k.a the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Noah”

In 1992 the journalist Andrew Morton famously released Diana: Her True Story. The behind-the-scenes book, which was top-secret, proved controversial, and it was written in conjunction with Diana herself. Diana referred to Morton by the code name “Noah,” but why? According to him, it was a loose acronym based on a previous description of Morton as a “notable author and historian.” Clever!

Prince Philip

Operation Forth Bridge

The Queen spent the last year and a half of her life without her husband, Prince Philip. When Philip passed away in April 2021, Britain was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet plans known as Operation Forth Bridge were still set in motion even in the most unexpected of global circumstances. Bridge names are reportedly used due to their symbolism of leading from one place to the next. The real Forth Bridge is in Edinburgh, Scotland, which makes sense, since Philip was the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen Mother

Operation Tay Bridge

The Queen Mother passed away in March 2002. Plans surrounding her death were named after yet another bridge, this time Tay Bridge. It’s a railway route running between Dundee and Fife, across the Firth of Tay in Scotland. While she ended her days at Royal Lodge Windsor in Berkshire, England, the choice of bridge reflects the importance of Scotland to the family.

King George VI

Operation Hyde Park Corner

George VI reigned over Britain from 1936 until 1952. He had his time cut short by illness, a situation famously dramatized in Season 1 of Netflix’s The Crown. The code name for his post-death arrangements is an unusual one, this time taking inspiration from a feature in London rather than a bridge. It isn’t entirely clear how this came about.

“The Firm”

Speaking of family matters, this brings us to probably the most well-known of the royal code names on our list: The Firm. This title is typically associated with either lawyers or gangsters, so it’s perhaps worrying to see it applied to the monarch and company! Reportedly, His Majesty George VI initiated the move. Meghan Markle has also been known to use the name in the past.

Prince George

“Tips”

Prince George is one of the youngest members of the royal family, yet his special name is linked to one of the oldest brands in Britain. The Prince and Princess of Wales dubbed him “PG Tips,” as in the famous British tea company. It’s also sometimes shortened to “Tips.” This is due to how the staff refer to him at school: by his initials “PG.” Cute!

Royal babies have several names

One middle name isn’t nearly enough for a royal, it seems. Just ask Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, or Charles Philip Arthur George. And yes, as you can no doubt tell, the British royal family reuse names a lot. For example, Princess Charlotte’s full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, while Harry and Meghan’s daughter is Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.

No nicknames in public

Royal watchers and the tabloids love to say “Lady Di” and “Wills and Kate,” but such informalities don’t fly within the palace walls. Although royals are known to have informal nicknames for one another, they must go by their given names in public at all times. You’re not likely to hear Prince William refer to himself as Wills.

The name Elizabeth

As a name literally fit for a queen, Elizabeth has been consistently popular for a long time. It has remained on the top 25 list of girl names for the past 100 years, but it was especially popular in the ’20s and ’50s — probably thanks to the Queen’s birth and later coronation.

"Grandma" is not allowed

Believe it or not, royal children weren't permitted to call Queen Elizabeth II grandma! But it's not like they called her Your Royal Highness, either. She was actually known as "Granny" or "Gan-Gan." And according to the Daily Mail, Prince William addressed her as "Gary!"

No last names for royal babies

Royals are obliged to register the birth of a new child, even if practically the whole world already knows of the little one’s existence. Interestingly, though, no surname needs to be included on those forms. Still, the British royal family members can choose a surname of their own. Prince George reportedly uses “George Cambridge” around his classmates, for example, while William has been known to go by “William Wales.”

Royals must accept the names they’re given

Upon tying the knot, royal couples are presented with a small hitch: each is forced to take on a formal new name. So, William and Kate became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, while Charles and Diana became the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Royals can’t give autographs

Although famous, a royal should never be your average celebrity, no matter how hard the media might try to present them in such a light. This is especially true for the King. And since Charles isn’t your average rockstar or influencer, it’s absolutely out of the question for him to sign autographs. The reason? Well, the King’s signature would be a dream come true for anyone making forgeries. 

Royals can't take selfies

Mind you, autographs aren’t that popular any more. In a way, they’re things of the past. Today, selfies are the modern equivalent. And here’s the deal — there aren’t any official rules and protocols regarding them. Yet no one really takes selfies with the King. Additionally, another rule which says that you should never turn your back on a royal could technically prevent you from taking a selfie. 

Head of the armed forces

In republics, the president is the one who acts as the commander of the armed forces. In the case of the U.K., though, it’s officially the King or Queen who calls all the shots. In practice, the structure isn’t that simple: Charles is highly unlikely to be making any rash decisions and will have high-ranking officials to help him act and officially declare war if needed. 

Head of the Church of England

The U.K. is one of the most secular societies at this point in history. Still, the King has to act as the head of the Church of England. Established back in the 16th century, it was Henry VIII who separated this religious body from papal jurisdiction. Ever since then, all of the nation’s rulers have also acted as the head of its church.

Royals aren’t supposed to be affectionate in public

While there’s no official rule in any book concerning public displays of affection, Elizabeth and her Prince Philip were adamant about keeping things very modest. This includes things like using nicknames and holding hands at official events. Prince William and Kate Middleton seemingly broke this rule during the 2012 Olympics when they hugged each other, and it immediately became a major talking point. 

Royals must observe a strict dress code

Needless to say, royals have to look sharp, no matter what. King Charles will always need to be dressed appropriately for any occasion — be it a royal funeral, a formal diplomatic visit, or anything else. And, of course, it’s all very strict and formal. One of the most interesting rules here is that royals should never remove their coats if they wear one. For instance, if Charles enters any building with a coat on, he is apparently forbidden to remove it.

Royals must have special outfits when traveling abroad

When the monarch goes abroad, he still has to represent his entire country. What this means is that he is there in the name of all the people of the U.K. At the same time, the monarch needs to find an appropriate way to pay respect to the country that they’re visiting. So with him, Charles needs to have one piece of attire that represents the culture of the people there. It could even be the color of a piece of clothing, or even a small piece that represents the country’s flag. 

The royal family must wear black in mourning

It may sound morbid, but this rule is merely practical. British royals are instructed to always pack — or have packed — a set of black clothes when traveling. That way, should someone important pass away while they are on the road, they can return home in proper and respectful mourning attire.

Royals cannot voice strong opinions in public

Look, everyone has an opinion on most subjects. And these days, with access to large social media platforms, it’s easy to make them heard. But for the King, this is an absolute no-go zone. While Charles can certainly think what he wants, he’s not allowed to ever talk about it in public. Sure, he might have spoken up publicly about various issues as a prince. But that’s all in the past now. 

The King must have political neutrality and transparency

As already mentioned in the rules above, the British royal family represents all the people over whom they rule. And it follows that monarchs should, at all times, keep absolute political neutrality. In fact, the King, and all royals, aren’t even allowed to vote. So in case you were looking to get politically active, don’t count on Charles’ support.

Royals don’t travel with other heirs

This might seem like a weird one. But when you think about it, the rule actually makes a lot of sense. Traveling is another activity that’s far riskier than it looks: there are all sorts of things that could go wrong. That’s why royals always take separate planes when traveling. Not exactly the most eco-friendly approach. But hey, it’s safety first for the King!

The King must be the one to end conversations

This is more of a commoner-oriented rule, but it requires the King’s action. If you ever happen to talk to Charles, do not ever be the one who ends the conversation. And don’t ever turn your back on him. It’s up to Charles, as the monarch, to end a chat. Don’t worry, he won’t go on talking forever. Just be patient. 

The King should keep all gifts

Now stepping away from such constitutional formalities, there’s also a rule in place requiring Charles to keep all the gifts that he receives. It’s not even an option to refuse anything. And he should receive these gifts with absolute honor. The same rule is applied to any other British royal family member. But we’re also certain that those giving them gifts won’t just bring anything. 

Royals must be baptized

The Queen insisted that all members of her family get baptized, and even Meghan Markle was required to be christened before she wed Prince Harry in 2018. Such is the tradition for the Windsors. The Archbishop of Canterbury leads the ceremonies and uses holy water from the Jordan River.

Royals don’t vote

While it isn’t against any written laws, it is simply understood that royals won’t cast votes in U.K. government elections. A shame, since there is a personal interest here: the monarch has to endure a weekly meeting with the elected prime minister. But it is understood that as ceremonial heads of state, the British royals have a duty to keep politics separate from royal life.