LONDON — Britain’s six living former prime ministers gathered for the rarest of ceremonies in London on Saturday to witness the official proclamation of King Charles III as the country’s new monarch.
At a somber meeting of the Accession Council, the new king said he was “deeply aware” of the “duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty” now handed down to him by his late mother Queen Elizabeth II.
“In assuming these responsibilities, I will endeavor to follow the inspiring example given to me to uphold constitutional government and to seek the peace, harmony and prosperity of the peoples of these islands, kingdoms and territories of the Commonwealth across the world,” he told a packed room of senior politicians and other dignitaries at St James’s Palace.
Although Charles became king by the time his mother died on Thursday, according to centuries-old British convention, an accession council must meet to formally declare his accession to the throne. It last met in 1952. This year, the whole event was televised for the first time.
The historic occasion brought together former Conservative and Labor Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, as well as current Prime Minister Liz Truss. They were joined by past and current Cabinet ministers, the former Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Queen Camilla and King William’s eldest son and heir.
Advisers also included former deputy first minister Nick Clegg, who lost his seat in Sheffield in 2017 and is now chairman of global affairs at tech giant Meta, and current and former Scottish first ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.
The historic ceremony was led by Lord President of the Council Penny Mordaunt, who was only given the job during Tuesday night’s cabinet reshuffle by new PM Truss.
During the first part of the ceremony, the Clerk of the Privy Council, Richard Tilbrook, read the proclamation confirming that Charles was Britain’s “sole and rightful overlord”. The clerk then declared: “God save the king”, and more than 200 councilors repeated the famous phrase.
In the second part of the meeting, the King delivered his speech and took an oath to preserve the Church of Scotland, where the powers of state and church are divided. William, the new Prince of Wales, also signed the oath.
Outside, a crowd of thousands sang the chorus of the national anthem – now rephrased – and applauded the new monarch three times.
Larger crowds awaited Charles III outside Buckingham Palace, where he arrived after the ceremony in his state Rolls Royce to welcome an audience with Truss, members of his cabinet and opposition leaders.
Prince William also paid his first public tribute to the Queen, who he said was by his side in his happiest and saddest times. “I knew this day would come, but it will be a while before the reality of life without a grandma really feels real,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon, other members of the Royal Family, including the King’s three siblings and their children, attended a prayer service at Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral, where the Queen’s body rests.
In parliament, senior MPs and government officials including Truss, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and longest-serving Labor MP Harriet Harman have pledged allegiance to the new king, and others are expected to do so. do so at a later date.
The program of commemorative events will continue on Sunday afternoon, when the King will receive the Kingdom’s High Commissioners and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on behalf of the British Government.
The Queen’s coffin will be transported by road to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on Sunday at a slow pace to allow mourners to pay their respects, according to a senior palace official.
On Monday, the coffin will be taken in a procession to St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where it will rest until Tuesday, before being flown to London, where it will rest in state for four days in Westminster Hall from Wednesday morning of his condition. funeral on September 19. During these days, thousands of people are expected in Parliament to bid farewell to the late monarch.
On Monday, Truss will attend the presentation of addresses at Westminster Hall and join King Charles III as he leads national mourning across the UK, with services in Scotland the same afternoon, in Northern Ireland on Tuesday and in Wales on Friday.