Amid a burst of pageantry with a trumpet fanfare, King Charles III was publicly proclaimed the new monarch for the first time in a ceremony steeped in tradition.
It was a masterclass in royal choreography – the like of which not has not been witnessed for 70 years – as the change in reign was officially announced.
Behind the old stone castellations of the balcony above Friary Court in St James’s Palace, the Garter Principal King of Arms David White, resplendent in a sumptuous red and gold velvet tabard, stepped into the warm September air under grey skies to shout out the proclamation.
It signified the formal notice to the people of the accession of a new sovereign, at the conclusion of the historic Accession Council.
In a poignant move, the Queen’s grieving first cousins had made their way into Friary Court to watch from beneath the arches of St James’s Palace.
Led by the late Queen’s Master of the Household Vice Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, the Duke of Kent, aged 86 and 10 years the Queen’s junior, looked ailing and frail as he walked slowly but without any aid to sit on a red leather and wooden seat specially set out for him under the arches of the courtyard.
There too were his brother Prince Michael of Kent, and the Duke of Gloucester and his wife the Duchess of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent’s daughter Lady Helen Taylor.
The Duchess of Gloucester, sat next to the Duke of Kent, listened as he pointed towards the balcony discussing the scene before them.
The Queen’s cousins have served Elizabeth II throughout their lives and shared precious times with her in childhood.
At one point the Gloucesters stood with their arms interlinked.
In the quadrangle, the King’s principal private secretary Sir Clive Alderton, clutching a series of white documents, and the late Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young were engrossed in conversation shortly before the public proclamation.
Both have key roles in the busy days ahead as London Bridge gets fully under way – although Charles has yet to set out the details of royal court as monarch.
The Garter King of Arms confessed beforehand to being nervous at his “emotional” role.
“It’s a great honour and something that we have been preparing for, for years. It’s a rather emotional occasion,” he said.
Asked if he had any nerves, he replied: “I do.”
His intricately decorated tabard, embroidered gold thread, was thankfully not heavy or hot, he disclosed, due to it being made of velvet.
Given the ancient nature of the ceremony, it was also remarkably new, having been made just 10 years ago when the previous one which dated from 1838 became too frail to be used.
“Every garment has its working life,” he added.
There had been much to do in preparation. One of the 20 foot high huge sash windows at the back of the balcony was removed entirely on Friday to allow the Garter King of Arms and the Officers and Serjeants of Arms ease of access – with a scramble through a window unthinkable amid the carefully staged pomp.
It was replaced with a temporary window in case of poor weather and for protection, which was removed on Saturday as the scene was readied.
Special wooden steps – crafted by a carpenter – were created to allow the ceremonial officers, all decked out in tabards like a row of court playing cards – to process with regal effect onto the balcony, which overlooked the expanse of the red coloured court.
Ahead of the ceremony, the newly named King’s Guard – made up of Number 7 Company Coldstream Guard – in familiar red tunics and black bearskin hats took their positions with shouts of “Be still” from their Captain.
Timing was of the utmost importance and the Earl Marshal – the Duke of Norfolk – in charge of the accession proceedings and the funeral – checked his watch twice as he and the others waited for the precise start time of 11am.
The Garter King of Arms read his 197 word proclamation – to “publish and proclaim that the Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become our only lawful and rightful liege lord, Charles III”.
He delivered his words loudly and without falter, the carrying of his voice assisted by two fluffy boom microphones hid out of sight behind the low dark red brick balcony wall, above the quadrangle.
The Captain of the King’s Guard ordered his troops to “Present arms” as the colour was lowered with the stomp of their feet.
The Garter King of Arms’ shout of “God Save the King” was echoed triumphantly by the gathered royals, including the Duke of Kent who rallied to stand, along with the household staff and public, as the state trumpeters sounded the royal salute.
Members of the household staff appeared moved as cheers from the crowds on The Mall and shouts of “God Save the King” flooded into the courtyard, as the National Anthem was played, and those watching joined in.
In a poignant tribute, the King’s Guard lifted their head-dresses raising them aloft three times as the Garter King of Arms declared “Three Cheers for His Majesty The King. Hip-Hip’ with the troops responding “Hooray” to each.
The Duke of Kent raised his hand in the air for the two final cheers.
Friary Court plays a role in the Changing the Guard ceremonies, being where the Old Guard forms and is inspected by the Captain of the Guard before marching to Buckingham Palace – and on Saturday, it was a Changing the Guard of the monarchy, from a now departed monarch to her son.