Queen Elizabeth on a visit in October to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Wiltshire. Others RFI declared dead included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Jimmy Carter, Raúl Castro, and the actors Clint Eastwood, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot.

French broadcaster apologises after wrongly killing off Queen and Pelé

Reports of the deaths of about 100 unfortunate celebrities have been greatly exaggerated by a French public radio station, which mistakenly published the obituaries of, among others, a very-much-alive Queen, Brigitte Bardot and Pelé.

Radio France Internationale (RFI), the French equivalent of the BBC World Service, on Monday blamed “a technical problem” and apologised for the error, which saw the death notices appear on its website and partner platforms including Google, Yahoo! and MSN before being hastily taken down.

“We offer our apologies to the people concerned and to you who follow and trust us,” the station said in a tweet. “We are doing all we can to rectify this major bug.”

Other non-French octa- and nonagenarians declared prematurely dead were Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; former US president Jimmy Carter; Cuban leader Raúl Castro; Yoko Ono; former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and the actors Clint Eastwood and Sophia Loren.

Among French nationals, the victims included Bernadette Chirac, wife of the late president Jacques; the former Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, the actors Jean-Louis Trintignant, Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo, the director Roman Polanski and the fashion designer Pierre Cardin.

Of the Queen, the station wrote: “The United Kingdom awoke an orphan this morning. Buckingham Palace officially announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen, who died of …, turned 94 on 21 April 2020.

“All Albion laments the disappearance of its sovereign who, at the head of her country since 1952, has constituted the immovable bedrock around which England’s postcolonial history has unfolded, full of sound and fury.”

In the event of the Queen’s regrettable death from the coronavirus, the station recommended that the obituary be preceded by the words: “The coronavirus pandemic that has wrought havoc around the world is no respecter of crowned heads. In England … it has claimed the life of the monarch. The United Kingdom awoke an orphan this morning. Infected by the virus, Queen Elizabeth II, aged 93, did not survive associated pulmonary complications.”

In the case of at least one celebrity, French business mogul turned politician Bernard Tapie, 77, the mistake was not the first or even the second time he has been declared dead: Le Monde published his obituary in 2019, while the TV station of the sports paper L’Équipe killed him off on screen last August.