11 British Royal Family Code Names You Never Knew About

Updated: Jun. 18, 2024

Sharon, Daphne and Danny who? Learn the code names of past and present members of the British royal family.

What did you think of Sharon, Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch? Chances are, not much—you’ve probably never heard of her, even if you consider yourself a dedicated fan of the British royal family. And you might not be familiar with Danny Collins or Daphne Clark either. But we bet you’d recognize their faces instantly.

Like many other public figures, the royals use secret names and royal nicknames to mask their real identities. Read on to find out some of the most senior royals’ past and present code names. Spoiler: You might have guessed it by now, but Sharon was the late Queen Elizabeth II!

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What are royal code names?

“Royal code names are used for security reasons,” explains Laura Windsor, a London-based expert on the British royal family. The tradition goes back decades, starting when switchboard operators had to manually connect the royal family’s private calls.

“These switchboard [operators] could hear in on every conversation, so royal code names were used to prevent them from finding out any important news before the royal family did themselves,” Windsor adds.

Today, switchboards are a thing of the past, but hackers pose a new security threat. As the royal expert notes, the code names, often “fictional or references to famous British landmarks,” remained in place for those on the royal family tree to confuse would-be hackers, though they also come in handy for travel planning. “Arrangements involving the royals take a long time to unfold, so using code names doesn’t arouse any suspicion,” Windsor says. “In a way, it’s like with actors: When they travel and stay at hotels, they also don’t give their real names.”

Queen Elizabeth II: London Bridge and Sharon

When Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, the palace informed its inner circle and other important figures in the U.K., including the prime minister, that “London Bridge is down.” The royal code was a reference to Operation London Bridge, the plan for the monarch’s passing that had been in place since the 1960s, just a decade after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. While it’s not clear how the royals came up with the term, Windsor assumes it might simply be “because of the bridge’s proximity to the palace, and also because ‘London Bridge is down’ is a nursery rhyme.”

News about Operation London Bridge broke a year before the queen’s passing, and thanks to the significance of both the security plan and her death, the code “London Bridge” is most closely tied to the monarch. But it’s not the only code name she used during her lifetime.

According to The Sun, Elizabeth’s security staff and inner circle referred to her as “Sharon” or “S,” while her late husband, Prince Philip, called her “Lilibet” and “cabbage” in private.

King Charles III: Menai Bridge and unicorn

While King Charles III is very much alive and well following his recent cancer treatment, he also has a royal code name assigned in the case of his death: Menai Bridge. Operation Menai Bridge—which the king’s death will trigger—is named after a suspension bridge in Wales (in fact, the first iron suspension bridge in the world) that spans the Menai Strait between the island of Anglesey and the mainland.

Menai Bridge seems like a great fit, given Charles’s close relationship with Wales, where he studied and frequently visited throughout his life. The name first came to light when Charles, then Prince of Wales, disappeared during an avalanche in the Swiss Alps in 1988, an event you’ll catch in the Netflix hit The Crown.

Windsor mentions another royal code name connected to Charles: When he was touring the United States in 1971, the Secret Service dubbed him “unicorn,” a nod to Scotland’s national animal.

King George VI: Hyde Park Corner

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King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, was reportedly the first senior royal to receive a code name prior to his death (in 1952): Hyde Park Corner. “Before George VI, there were no phones somebody could hack, so code names were not needed,” explains Windsor.

Hyde Park Corner is a major junction at the southeastern corner of London’s most famous park. Interestingly, it’s the only known code name for a senior royal’s passing that is not a bridge. “Maybe because it was the first time a code name was invented, there wasn’t yet a symbolic reference for crossing the bridge from life to heaven,” Windsor says.

Prince Philip: Forth Bridge

When Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, died in 2021 at age 99, Operation Forth Bridge came into effect.

Forth Bridge is an iconic steel railway bridge in Scotland, connecting county Fife and Edinburgh. The royal code name seems only fitting considering Prince Philip also held the title Duke of Edinburgh.

Princess Diana and the Queen Mother: Tay Bridge

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Plans for a royal’s death don’t always get a unique code name. According to British media reports, Princess Diana, who died in 1997 when she was just 36 years old, adopted hers—Tay Bridge—from the Queen Mother, who’d been assigned the code name more than a decade before Diana’s tragic accident. “Princess Diana died very suddenly,” explains Windsor. “She was so young that nobody thought she would be dying anytime soon, so she had not yet been given her own code name.”

The Queen Mother passed away five years after Diana at the age of 101. When she did, the crown initiated the code name a second time. Tay Bridge is a rail bridge in southwest Scotland, connecting the county Fife to the city of Dundee, and it’s one of the country’s most famous bridges.

Prince William and Princess Kate: Danny Collins and Daphne Clark

While the code names established in the case of Prince William’s or Princess Kate’s death—should they already exist—are unknown, their royal code names leaked to the press a few years ago. When they were still the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, they reportedly went by Danny Collins and Daphne Clark, the initials a reference to their royal titles.

Windsor says it’s likely that “their royal code names changed now that Kate and William are Prince and Princess of Wales, especially considering people found out about them.”

Fun fact: Kate once got away with simply introducing herself as “Mrs. Cambridge” when a Welsh store owner failed to recognize her and asked for her name.

Prince Harry and Meghan: David Stevens and Davina Scott

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Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, famously ditched the royal family for a new life in the United States, so nobody really knows what happened to their code names. “They’ve probably changed them or no longer even have code names,” says Windsor.

While the pair was still part of the firm, however, British media outlets such as the Independent suggested they went by David Stevens and Davina Scott, the initials referencing their titles as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

About the expert

  • Laura Windsor is an expert on the royal family and the founder of the Laura Windsor Etiquette Academy in London. She received her etiquette training from a former member of the Royal Household of Her Majesty the Queen.

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At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. We rely on reputable primary sources, including government and professional organizations and academic institutions, as well as our writers’ personal experiences where appropriate. For this piece on royal code names, Astrid Hofer tapped her experience as a London-based journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering topics including the British royal family. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing, and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.


  • Laura Windsor, royal expert and founder of the Laura Windsor Etiquette Academy in London; interview, June 12, 2024
  • Independent: “Operation Forth Bridge: What do the code names for royal deaths mean?”
  • Independent: “What is Operation Menai Bridge?”
  • Metro: “The story behind Prince Philip’s adorable nickname for the Queen”
  • Metro: “Why is it called Operation Menai Bridge?”
  • Daily Beast: “Call Me Mrs. Cambridge, Says Kate”