The death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday made Prince Charles the monarch automatically, but on Saturday morning, he was formally declared king in a ceremony at St. James’s Palace, a Tudor royal palace next to Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace confirmed on Saturday that the Queen’s state burial would take place on September 19 at Westminster Abbey, and Prince Charles will spend most of the first 10 days of his reign leading the nation in sadness.
On Sunday, six gamekeepers will carry the queen’s oak coffin from Balmoral Castle, her vacation house in Scotland, to a hearse.
The hearse will then travel the six hours to Edinburgh. The monarch will go to Scotland on Monday to pay his respects during the state funeral for his mother, which will be held at St. Giles’ Cathedral.
But before that could happen, Charles had to go through a ceremony that has been used to declare a king or queen of Britain for almost 300 years.
The ancient ritual was given a bit of a modern twist when King Charles III’s declaration was shown live on TV for the first time. This gave the public a chance to see the process in action for the first time.
The Accession Council formally recognised Charles as king and performed a variety of additional rituals in a poignant, sombre ceremony that was prescribed by tradition and echoed a bygone era.
“God save the king!” was proclaimed in unison by a room full of previous prime ministers and other members of the country’s elite.
Later, when he spoke to the Accession Council and the rest of the country, King Charles said again that he would continue his mother’s work.
King Charles III made a formal statement to the Accession Council after he was officially recognised as the ruler of Britain.
The king reflected on his mother’s life, saying, “She set an example of unconditional love and unselfish devotion.” In our sorrow, we celebrate the life of one who was really devoted. Because of this immense trust bestowed upon me, I am well aware of the weighty obligations of sovereign power.
Part one of the event was a gathering of the King’s Privy Council, his most trusted advisors. Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and John Major (the only six surviving former prime ministers) were all there, as was Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.
Patricia Scotland, secretary general of the Commonwealth, was also there to show how seriously Charles takes his position as the organization’s leader.
Prince William, the next successor to the monarchy, was named Prince of Wales on Friday by his father and immediately added to the Privy Council.
During the event, other individuals, including Prime Minister Liz Truss, religious leaders, and Camilla, Prince Charles’s wife, signed the proclamation as well.
Not a single person there had participated in the event 70 years ago when Elizabeth was declared sovereign.
For Britain, the official burial of the queen will be the first since that of Winston Churchill in 1965.
On Saturday, the palace briefed the press on the preparations, highlighting the years—if not decades—of planning that had gone into it. For the first three days, all eyes will be on Scotland, where the late queen’s corpse will lie in state.
On Monday, there will be a parade with her coffin up the Royal Mile, a stately path in Edinburgh’s Old Town, to the cathedral, where a funeral and vigil will be held.
Some members of the royal family will walk behind the coffin, while others will ride in automobiles, including Charles and Camilla.
The cortege carrying the queen’s body will leave Westminster Abbey on Tuesday afternoon to be flown to the Northolt air base in the western suburbs of London by a Royal Air Force plane.
It will be taken to Buckingham Palace in a state hearse, and when it gets there at 8 p.m. that same day, it will be put on a trestle in the ballroom and shown to the public.
At 2:22 p.m. on Wednesday, the gun carriage will depart from Buckingham Palace and make its way silently along the Mall and through Horse Guards Parade to Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster, where the imperial state crown and floral wreath will be placed on the coffin.
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The queen will lay in state at Westminster Hall for four days after a blessing by Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, until the morning of the burial, when her casket will be transferred once again to neighbouring Westminster Abbey.
Although Buckingham Palace refuses to provide an estimate, there are expected to be tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people based on funerals for past members of the royal family.
On Saturday in London, Charles convened with his Privy Council and delivered the pre-written public remarks that many kings before him had delivered. He gave a political and personal speech at his inauguration and also swore to support the Church of Scotland.
At the conference, a long list of formal proclamations were discussed for King Charles III to sign. One of them made the day the queen died a holiday all over Britain.
Even though the ceremony often had a bygone feel to it, the formalities paid homage to the British state’s founding principles.
After the meeting, the Garter King of Arms, who is the monarch’s main advisor on ceremonial and heraldic matters, read a proclamation from the balcony of St. James’s Palace announcing that King Charles III was now in charge.
The contrast between the old and the modern was obvious. The newly revised national song, “God Save the King,” was sung as members of the public gathered to hear the declaration sung while holding mobile phones over their heads to film the scene.
The proclamation was read aloud for the first time in the Royal Exchange in London at noon before being sent around the nation by harbingers on horses from the palace.
In the capitals of the other UK countries, it will be heard once again on Sunday. This relay of royal announcements was historically the quickest means of proclaiming the accession of a new monarch to the throne.