'I've practised reporting the Queen's death but it didn't go as planned'

Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan was one of the first reporters at Buckingham Palace when it was announced the Queen was in poor health.

The former BBC News host arrived at The Mall on Thursday, September 8 ahead of other crews and news teams and went on air at 2pm, broadcasting updates on the Queen’s condition for four hours.

Buckingham Palace later confirmed at 6.30pm Her Majesty had died peacefully surrounded by her family at Balmoral, with the nation immediately entering a period of mourning.

Murnaghan, 64, told Metro.co.uk what it was like being a journalist reporting the momentous news from the frontlines.

I read the Queen’s death statement without personally verifying it

At around 6.30pm, when Buckingham Palace announced the Queen’s death, is where I became reliant on all the rehearsals we’ve done as broadcasters and on all the trust I have with my coworkers. I was totally in their hands and I get it in the neck if we jump the gun or get it wrong. It’s the ultimate trust as they’ve told me to read that statement and I don’t double-check or second guess them.

The Queen’s death was announced on a simple note

The formality of the way Royal news, good or bad, is announced is one of those lovely traditions. It must date back hundreds of years and they place just a simple note on the gates of the Royal Palaces and Buckingham Palace. On the day of the Queen’s death, people were coming to check the gate to see, I guess, if it was really true.

There was no signal at Buckingham Palace when I needed it the most

When you’re on a breaking news story you’ve got one camera and your phone and that’s it. There’s no access to computers or news wires. And, of course, when the news broke that Her Majesty had died, the signal went down because everyone was using their phones. I had no email or WhatsApp or anything. It happened just at the moment when the producers asked to read the Queen’s death announcement. I was thinking to myself, ‘They’d better be right.’ Of course, they were right. That’s what we train for.

I reported for 10 hours straight without any food or water

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I worked for around 10 hours straight without any comfort break, drink of water or any food and it was pouring with rain. I’m just describing the circumstances and I’m not for a moment complaining as you want to be involved in these huge stories. That’s just what you do. 

My legs wouldn’t work by the end of my shift 

I got off after working more or less nonstop from 2pm to midnight and my legs wouldn’t work. I thought it was strange as I couldn’t walk. I don’t know whether it was shock, adrenaline or concentration. 

I’ve been rehearsing the death of a major Royal for decades

Broadcasters have been rehearsing the death of a major Royal for decades, but the way it happened played out differently. We rehearse for them in the studio, where you’ve got your Royal correspondent and your piles of facts about the Royal family. On the day of the Queen’s death, I was standing in the rain under an umbrella with a malfunctioning mobile phone and one dodgy line to my studio.

I was surprised when people sang God Save the King

As we always have a monarch, and there is no interregnum, the second Her Majesty passed it was King Charles. And it surprised me because the crowd broke into a verse of the national anthem and I heard them singing ‘God Save the King.’ To me, that version of the national anthem was from the war, as that was when they last sang it. To hear it in the 21st century outside Buckingham Palace was very strange.

All broadcasting studios have a store of black ties

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a broadcasting studio where a black tie wouldn’t have been to hand. I went down to Buckingham Palace wearing a very dark blue tie because we knew that the Queen was not very well, but I wasn’t going to jump the gun and put a black tie on. After I announced her sad passing and started running the obituary, I then swapped ties.

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