LONDON — King Charles III was officially proclaimed Britain’s monarch on Saturday in a ceremony steeped in ancient tradition and political symbolism — and, for the first time, broadcast live.
A council of senior politicians and officials gathered at St. James’s Palace in London for the accession ceremony.
It’s the first time the ceremony has been held since 1952, when Queen Elizabeth II took the throne.
Charles automatically became king when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on Thursday at the age of 96, but the accession ceremony is a key constitutional and ceremonial step in introducing the new monarch to the country.
The ceremony at St. James’s Palace, a royal residence in London, was attended by the Accession Council, senior politicians and officials who advise the monarch.
They first met without Charles to proclaim him sovereign. The clerk of the council then announced that “Prince Charles Philip Arthur George is now, by the death of our lady sovereign of happy memory, become our King Charles III… God save the king!”
The assembled councilors then repeated “God save the king!”
They then moved to a second room in the palace, where the king joined them to make a series of oaths and declarations.
Charles was accompanied at the ceremony by his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, and his eldest son Prince William. William is now heir to the throne and known by the title Charles long held, Prince of Wales.
“I am deeply aware of this great inheritance,” he said, while noting the “duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty.”
The king vowed to follow his mother’s “inspiring example” as he took on the duties of monarch.
“I know how deeply you and the entire nation, and I think I may say the whole world, sympathize with me in this irreparable loss we have all suffered,” he said.
He also vowed to be a “defender of the faith” and added he was “profoundly encouraged by the support of my beloved wife.”
He also declared that the day of his mother’s funeral — expected to be September 19 — will be a public holiday as a day of national mourning.
After the ceremony, an official read the proclamation aloud with a trumpet fanfare from a balcony at St. James’s Palace, followed by three cheers for the new monarch.
It will also be read out in the medieval City of London and at other locations across the UK, as gun salutes were fired around the country to mark the occasion.
Two days after Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland following an unprecedented 70 years on the throne, people still came in their thousands to pay their respects outside Buckingham Palace in London.
The scene was repeated at other royal residences across the UK and at British embassies around the world.
The monarch set the tone for his reign on Friday, vowing in a televised address to carry on the queen’s “lifelong service,” with his own modernizing stamp.
Charles looked to both the past — noting his mother’s unwavering “dedication and devotion as sovereign” — and the future, seeking to strike a reassuring note of constancy while signaling that his will be a 21st-century monarchy.
He reflected on how the country had changed dramatically during the queen’s reign into a society “of many cultures and many faiths,” and pledged to serve people in Britain and the 14 other countries where he is king “whatever may be your background or beliefs.”
He also tried to overcome a reputation for aloofness in his first hours as monarch, spending time shaking hands with some of the thousands who came to leave flowers and pay tribute to the queen at the gates of Buckingham Palace. He was greeted with shouts of “Well done, Charlie!” and “God save the king!” One woman gave him a kiss.
Britain is holding a period of mourning for the queen, with days of carefully choreographed ceremonies marking the death of the only monarch most people have ever known.
In the next few days the queen’s body will be brought from Balmoral, first to Edinburgh and then to London, where she will lie in state before a funeral at Westminster Abbey, expected around Sept. 19.
In his speech, Charles struck a personal note, speaking of his sorrow at the loss of “my darling Mama.”
“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years,” he said, ending with a quote from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” — “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’”