(LONDON) – Charles III was officially proclaimed monarch of the United Kingdom on Saturday, opening a new era in the history of a country that is preparing to bid farewell to Elizabeth II, its guide and symbol of stability for seven decades.
In a solemn ceremony televised from Saint James’s Palace in London, in the presence of his heir William, Queen Consort Camilla, Prime Minister Liz Truss and all his living predecessors, the Ascension Council signed and announced the proclamation of the new king.
“Prince Carlos Felipe Arturo Jorge now becomes, due to the death of our sovereign lady of happy memory, our King Carlos III. God save the king!” The council proclaimed before the monarch himself was called to the room. .
“My mother’s reign was unmatched for its duration, dedication and devotion (…) I am deeply aware of this great heritage and the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty, which is now transmitted to me,” said the new sovereign.
Following a carefully crafted protocol long overdue, the late queen’s 73-year-old son slowly settles into the head of state and into the hearts of the British people.
His proclamation was then read to the public from a balcony of the palace, to the sound of royal trumpeters and in the presence of the royal guard in their ostentatious black bear hats, as well as a large group of onlookers.
“A Different King”
“We all want the best for him, but he is going to be a different king,” Malcolm Tyndall, 54, director of a London charity, told AFP, visibly moved and holding a bouquet of flowers in his arms.
“It comes at a very difficult time, due to the cost of living, the war in Ukraine, we have a new prime minister, now a new king,” he listed. “She can’t be the same as her mother, so she will make changes in the smoothest way possible,” he said.
Members of Parliament – MPs and Lords – will swear allegiance to the monarch and express their condolences on Saturday. In the afternoon, Carlos III will once again receive Truss and the main members of his executive, recently appointed on Tuesday.
In his first televised speech as Carlos III, the new monarch on Friday praised his “beloved mother”, a “model” and an “inspiration” always “at the service of the people” whom he promised to emulate.
The eternal Prince of Wales automatically succeeded Elizabeth II on Thursday, who died at the age of 96 in her Scottish castle at Balmoral, shocking the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the world.
During a church service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Friday, the British anthem was sung with a modified lyric, “God save the King,” for the first time in 70 years.
No British sovereign has waited so long to take the throne and Charles III will have to wait a little longer for his coronation ceremony, the date of which no one thinks yet: his own mother waited more than a year after becoming queen.
Carlos’s portraits covered all the front pages of the press on Saturday. The Sun published a photo of mother and son with the words: “To my loving mom, thank you.”
After the enormous popularity of Isabel II, the rise of Carlos III, less popular, opens a delicate period for a monarchy that faces multiple challenges, from the desire to distance itself from some Commonwealth countries to criticism of its colonial and slave-owning past.
Furthermore, the UK is facing its worst economic crisis in 40 years and has seen four prime ministers pass in six years. Divisions run across the country over Brexit and over desires for independence in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But, cheered by thousands of people upon his arrival at the palace on Friday, the new king may be starting to win the hearts of some Britons.
“The Loss of an Icon”
At the same time in Scotland, its capital Edinburgh is preparing for the first public tributes to the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, who died while spending the summer there.
“She is the only queen we have ever met,” Jason Viloria, a 45-year-old American school administrator whose son studies in Edinburgh, told AFP. “For us, it is the loss of an icon”, of “a historical figure”.
On Sunday, the queen’s coffin will be moved from Balmoral Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the official residence of monarchs in Scotland, and a day later to nearby St. Giles’ Cathedral.
His final trip to London is scheduled for Tuesday by plane for several days of public tribute and a state funeral, at a date to be fixed, at Westminster Abbey with dignitaries from around the world, including US President Joe Biden.