11 Royal Code Names

When she was trying to fly under the radar, Queen Elizabeth II went by the name ‘Sharon.’
Queen Elizabeth II sometimes went by Sharon.
Queen Elizabeth II sometimes went by Sharon. / Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images (Queen Elizabeth II), belterz/E+/Getty Images (name tag), Nugroho Ridho/Moment/Getty Images (background)

The late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, famously used to call Queen Elizabeth II “Cabbage.” Princess Diana gave Prince William the nickname Wombat after a tour of Australia. When Prince Edward and the future Duchess of Edinburgh, Sophie Rhys-Jones, first began dating in the 1990s, Edward went by the name Richard when arranging their dates. And King Charles and Queen Camilla are popularly claimed to refer to one another as “Fred” and “Gladys” in honor of a long-running joke on Peter Sellers’s old comic radio serial, The Goon Show.

But those are personal nicknames and monikers—and in certain circumstances and contexts, the royal family has to go by code names, too. Often, these top secret names are used for security purposes—as when a member of the royal family travels abroad, and plans for their trip have to be made in advance. The arrangements made for royal weddings and coronations are also made under various code names, as are the fateful arrangements and protocols that come into play whenever a member of the royal family dies.

Beginning with the late Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, here is a rundown of how some of the most prominent members of the royal family have been known (or rather, secretly known) over the years.

Hyde Park Corner // George VI 

King George VI and the Constitution Arch on London’s Hyde Park Corner.
King George VI and the Constitution Arch on London’s Hyde Park Corner. / © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images (King George VI), simonbradfield/E+/Getty Images (Hyde Park)

Hyde Park Corner was the secret term used in 1952 to inform the palace and the then-prime minister, Winston Churchill, that the king had died. (Hyde Park Corner is a prominent road junction in central London, not far from Buckingham Palace and The Mall; why it was chosen as a secret code for this purpose is unclear.) At 8:45 a.m. on the morning of February 6, the king’s private secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, telephoned his assistant and said, “Hyde Park Corner. Go and tell Mr. Churchill and Queen Mary,” the mother of George VI.

There was a reason for keeping the events under wraps, however. The secret code signaling the king’s demise had apparently been introduced so that switchboard operators at Buckingham Palace wouldn’t learn the news before the royal family themselves.

Tay Bridge // Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother 

A photoillustration of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in front of Tay Rail Bridge
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Tay Rail Bridge. / Georges De Keerle/Getty Images (Queen Mother), London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Tay Rail Bridge)

When Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother—the widow of George VI, and mother of the late Elizabeth II—died in 2002 at the age of 101, Operation Tay Bridge was set in motion.

As with many of the other royal funeral protocols, the announcement and subsequent arrangement of the Queen Mother’s funeral had been given the name of one of the United Kingdom’s most famous bridges: the Tay Bridge. This rail bridge spans the Firth of Tay in southwest Scotland, connecting Fife to the city of Dundee (and shouldn’t be confused with the nearby Tay Road Bridge, which the Queen Mother coincidentally opened in 1966). Some of the plans for Tay Bridge were also used when Princess Diana unexpectedly died in 1997.

London Bridge, Unicorn, and Sharon // Queen Elizabeth II 

Queen Elizabeth II in front of an aerial view of London Bridge.
Queen Elizabeth II and London Bridge. / Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images (Queen Elizabeth II), Howard Kingsnorth/Stone/Getty Images (London Bridge)

As with her father 70 years earlier, when Queen Elizabeth II passed away in 2022, it fell to her private secretary, Sir Edward Young, to telephone prime minster Liz Truss at Downing Street to pass on the fateful code phrase London Bridge is down. The arrangements for the queen’s passing—including the strict protocols employed by the BBC in the event of a royal death—immediately went into effect under the code name Operation London Bridge.

The code phrase London Bridge is down was probably chosen in reference to the famous nursery rhyme, “London Bridge is Falling Down,” and perhaps the proximity of London Bridge to Buckingham Palace (it’s about three miles away). Why are royal funeral protocols named after bridges? As the palace’s former press secretary, Dickie Arbeiter, told Yahoo UK in 2020, “The code ‘Bridges’ has been around for decades. … [E]very Royal knows the term, and every Royal signs off on his/her funeral arrangement. Bridges means the move from life to the hereinafter.”

However, because Queen Elizabeth died outside of London at her personal residence of Balmoral Castle, in Aberdeenshire, her death also set into motion Operation Unicorn—the procedure put in place to cover the eventuality that the queen might die in Scotland. The name Unicorn was probably chosen in a reference to the Scottish unicorn, an ancient heraldic symbol of the Scottish Stuart dynasty that appears on the British coat of arms. (The unicorn is also Scotland’s national animal.)

However, when out and about performing her typical duties, the Queen went by a far more ordinary code name among her staff and her security detail. To avoid calling attention to her presence, and to keep anyone from hacking their communication channels in advance of her arrival, the Queen was known to her inner circle as “Sharon” or “S.”

Menai Bridge // King Charles III

King Charles and the Menai Bridge.
King Charles and the Menai Bridge. / Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images (King Charles), Alan Novelli/DigitalVision/Getty Images (Menai Bridge)

When he was still just the Prince of Wales, the now King Charles was given the code name Menai Bridge in reference to the impressive 19th-century suspension bridge connecting the island of Anglesey to the Welsh mainland. The Menai Bridge protocol even had to be implemented in 1988 when an avalanche struck the Swiss ski resort where Charles was holidaying and the future king’s whereabouts were unknown for a time. Luckily, he escaped injury, but another member of the ski party tragically died.

Whether Charles’s code name has since been changed by security services now that he is king, and his son William has now succeeded him as Prince of Wales, is unknown. But in addition to Menai Bridge, King Charles has also been known by a handful of other code names over the years, including Unicorn (which was given to him by the Secret Service during a tour of the United States in 1971). Meanwhile, the arrangements for the king’s coronation in 2022 went by the name Operation Golden Orb—a reference to one of the jewel-encrusted symbols of sovereignty used during the crowning ceremony.

Forth Bridge // Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip and Forth Bridge.
Prince Philip and Forth Bridge. / Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images (Prince Philip), Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo/Moment/Getty Images (Forth Bridge)

With his wife, the Queen, taking on the code name of London Bridge, the Duke of Edinburgh was given the rather appropriate code name Forth Bridge—an iconic rail bridge across Scotland’s Firth of Forth that connects Edinburgh to Fife.

Danny Collins and Daphne Clark // William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, Princess of Wales 

Catherine, Princess of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales
William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, Princess of Wales. / Samir Hussein/GettyImages

Much like Queen Elizabeth II going by the somewhat unassuming Sharon, when William and Kate were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, they went by the code names Danny Collins and Daphne Clark (initials D.C., get it?) so that their travel arrangements and security protocols could be made and discussed privately without arousing suspicion. Whether they have kept these names since being elevated to the Prince and Princess of Wales is unclear—as are the operational code names put in place for any future formal protocols, for that matter.

David Stevens and Davina Scott // Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. / Samir Hussein/GettyImages

While William and Catherine went by D.C. code names as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex took on the D.S. code names David Stevens and Davina Scott. It’s unknown whether these names are still in operation in royal circles after the pair stepped back from official royal duties in 2020.

Read More Articles About Royalty: