King Charles III Formally Proclaimed U.K. Monarch With Pomp and Ceremony
Saturday - 10/09/2022 18:17
He was officially proclaimed monarch during a historic televised Accession Council ceremony, as Britain’s new king undertook the first formalities of his reign while still grieving for his late mother.
For the first time, live television images were beamed from the throne room in St. James’s palace as King Charles oversaw his first Privy Council meeting. For nearly all Britons, it was the first time they had seen the ceremony, giving them a glimpse at time-honored rituals that have ushered in kings and queens over the centuries.
The last time the accession ceremony took place was when Queen Elizabeth II acceded the throne in 1952, before televisions were common. The last prime minister to witness such a ceremony was Winston Churchill. Large crowds gathered around the palace, first built by King Henry VIII, to catch a glimpse of history in the making.
Charles became king the moment his 96-year-old mother died so the proclamation of his role as monarch is now a largely ceremonial process. Historically, however, it was a way of formally announcing the new monarch to the nation before the era of mass media.
“It is my most sorrowful duty to announce the death of my beloved mother, the Queen,” said King Charles, dressed in tails and standing before a red-velvet throne inscribed with the late Queen Elizabeth’s ensignia “ER.”
“My mother’s reign was unequaled,” he said. “I shall strive to follow the inspiring example I have been set.”
More than a hundred privy councilors, including all living former prime ministers, watched on as King Charles signed an oath to guarantee the security of the Church of Scotland and declared the day of his mother’s funeral a national holiday. He was also flanked by his son and heir apparent, William, now the Prince of Wales. The Privy Council advises the monarch and is mainly made up of current and former British politicians.
From everyday Britons to iconic musicians and world leaders, people around the world shared condolences after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. WSJ’s Stu Woo reports from Balmoral, Scotland, where she spent her final weeks. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Later in the day, the king’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, emerged together with their wives outside Windsor Castle to view a sea of flowers placed at the castle gates, and then greeted and chatted with well-wishers. It was a moment of unity after years of tension sparked Harry’s and his wife’s, the actor Megan Markle’s, decision to quit royal duties in 2020 to build a new life in the U.S.
Prince Harry has a tell-all book about his life as a royal coming out soon. That, combined with allegations by the Duchess of Sussex of racism in royal ranks, has strained relations between the two brothers, officials say.
All four, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, spent more than half an hour meeting visitors, shaking hands, accepting condolences and occasionally smiling.
Prince William issued his first statement since the death of his grandmother, praising her life of service. The prince, now the heir apparent to the throne, said that while he had lost a grandmother, he felt grateful he and his family got to spend so much time with her.
“She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life. I knew this day would come, but it will be some time before the reality of life without Grannie will truly feel real,” he said.
An Accession Council is usually called within 24 hours of the death of a British monarch and is customarily held at St. James’s Palace, which was the residence to British monarchs for 300 years up until Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837.
After the Privy Council meeting, the state trumpeters of the household cavalry gathered on the balcony of the redbrick palace to herald the new monarch. Then the Garter King of Arms announced the new monarch to the waiting crowds “with one voice and consent of tongue.”
“God save the king!” shouted the crowd in unison in response to the proclamation, before singing the national anthem.
“Three cheers for his majesty the king!” said the Garter King of Arms, to which the King’s Guard soldiers took off their bearskin hats and replied, “Hip, hip, hurrah!”
The announcement was followed by a flurry of proclamations across the country, including in the city of London, and gun salutes at the Tower of London and Hyde Park. Senior government ministers will gather in parliament to swear an oath of allegiance to the new king.
At noon, Britons clogged into the streets around the historic Royal Exchange building in the center of London’s financial district, holding phones in the air to capture the pomp and pageantry. A procession of guards clutching weapons of centuries past—pikemen, musketeers, and the royal guards, wearing the classic red uniforms and tall bearskin caps—preceded a reading of the proclamation that declared Charles the new king.
Debbie Harris and her daughter Lucy, 14, traveled in from Essex with a pair of friends. They planned to head over to Buckingham Palace, where they would lay a bouquet of flowers for the queen. “I thought it’d be nice for her to come down to experience it,” she said.
Ms. Harris showed off a photo that hangs on her wall at home—her with her arm around a wax replica of the queen at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. “My father used to always buy the commemorative mugs and plates and everything as a family,” she said.
Later in the afternoon, the king met with Prime Minister Liz Trussand her cabinet, as well as leaders of the opposition political parties. Televised footage of those meetings were to be made public too, in a further sign of the king’s desire to make this process of transition accessible.
With the king now formally installed, the focus will turn to the burial of Queen Elizabeth. The queen’s coffin will in the coming days depart her Scottish residence in Balmoral where she died to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh—the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.
The queen’s body will then go to St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the queen will lie at rest, allowing the public to view her coffin. From there it will be flown to London, where the coffin again will be put on display for the public to view before a state funeral at Westminster Abbey. She will be buried next to her late husband, Prince Philip, at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.