Centuries-old royal traditions played out on Saturday morning as King Charles III was formally declared the nation’s new monarch.
A poignant and sombre meeting of the Accession Council was followed by the pageantry of the proclamation of the new King being read from a balcony at St James’s Palace and then the Royal Exchange in the City of London.
The King spoke movingly about his mother and the grief his family is experiencing, but said the “sympathy expressed by so many to my sister and brothers” had been the “greatest consolation”.
Watched by the Queen, the new Prince of Wales and more than 200 privy counsellors – including six former prime ministers – the King pledged himself to the task now before him and the “heavy responsibilities of sovereignty” and paid tribute to the reign of his mother, “unequalled in its duration, its dedication and its devotion”.
Later on Saturday, William shared his own tribute to the Queen in her role as his grandmother, saying: “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.”
This was followed by the prince and the Duke of Sussex setting aside their well-documented troubled relationship to unite for a mammoth walkabout at Windsor Castle with their wives, Kate and Meghan – the first time the four have been seen in public together since Commonwealth Day in 2020, two months after the Sussexes announced their plans to step back as senior royals.
A royal source said the Prince of Wales asked Harry and Meghan to join in the walkabout, where they read tributes and met dozens of members of the public for more than 40 minutes.
The Queen’s funeral will take place at Westminster Abbey on Monday September 19 at 11am, the Earl Marshall, the Duke of Norfolk, confirmed after a four-day laying in state at Westminster Hall from Wednesday.
Monday has been announced as a public holiday.
Saturday also included moments of pomp and pageantry with David White, Garter King of Arms, in his colourful regalia and flanked by other Officers of Arms and Sergeants at Arms, reading the proclamation of the new King from a balcony at St James’s Palace.
The second reading of the Accession Proclamation was met with applause and cheers of “God save the King” outside the Royal Exchange.
Thousands of onlookers had gathered at noon on Saturday in the City of London to witness the proclamation delivered by Timothy Duke, the Clarenceux King of Arms, in front of the Lord Mayor.
The Duke of York put his arm around his daughter Princess Eugenie as she wiped a tear from her cheek while reading tributes to her grandmother at Balmoral – the first time the members of the royal family had been seen together in public since the Queen’s death on Thursday.
Asked by a mourner how things were, Andrew said: “We’ve been allowed one day, now we start the process of handing her on.”
Andrew and his two daughters were joined by two of the Queen’s children, the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex, the Countess of Wessex, Anne’s husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence and the Queen’s grandchildren Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall and Lady Louise Windsor at a prayer service held at the nearby Crathie Kirk church, a place the Queen visited regularly during her stays at Balmoral.
The King was soon back to official duties, hosting audiences with Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Cabinet and then meeting the leaders of the opposition parties, including Sir Keir Starmer, Ian Blackford and Sir Ed Davey.
As sports events resumed, cricketers wearing black armbands lined up on the outfield at the Oval in London to observe a minute’s silence before soprano Laura Wright led them in the national anthem of South Africa and then God Save The King ahead of the third day of the third Test.
A two-minute silence was observed by staff, players and caddies at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where the King’s televised Accession Council was beamed to the big screens.
Banks of flowers at the gates of the royal palaces and in public parks grew, with thousands of well-wishers leaving poignant notes, pictures and gifts while pausing for quiet reflection on what the Queen meant to them.
The Queen’s coffin will be taken by road from Balmoral Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on Sunday on a six-hour journey by hearse.
There will also be proclamations confirming the accession of King Charles III will be read in the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved parliaments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.