King Charles III prepared on Friday to address his grieving subjects on the first full day of his new reign, as Britain and the world commemorated the extraordinary life of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
At 73, Charles is the oldest monarch yet to take the throne, following the death of his “beloved” mother at her isolated Scottish estate on Thursday.
He was due to return to London from Balmoral, where the 96-year-old Queen died “peacefully” after a year-long period of ill health and decline, at the culmination of a record-breaking 70-year reign.
“During this time of grief and change, my family and I will be comforted and supported by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held,” Charles said in a statement.
Buckingham Palace said the King and other members of the Royal Family would observe an extended period of mourning for up to seven days after his funeral.
The date of the funeral, which will be attended by Heads of State and Government, has not yet been announced but is expected to take place on Monday September 19.
One of the most recognizable peoples on the planet, the Queen was the only British monarch most people living today have ever known.
The tributes were universal, including from Russia and China.
The Empire State Building in New York was illuminated after sunset in silver and royal purple, while the Eiffel Tower in Paris dimmed its lights in tribute.
US President Joe Biden has described the Queen, whom he met for tea at Windsor Castle last year, as “a stateswoman of unequaled dignity”.
He relayed the comforting words she spoke when the United States was plunged into mourning after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper chose the same words for its grim front-page headline: ‘Grief is the price we pay for love,’ it read.
Other British newspapers also printed special editions to mark the occasion. “Our hearts are broken,” headlined the popular Daily Mail tabloid.
The Mirror simply wrote, “Thank you.”
Charles’ inaugural speech, which was to be pre-recorded, was due to air on Friday evening, part of 10 days of plans drawn up over decades by Buckingham Palace and the UK government.
The new king was also due to hold his first audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was not named until Tuesday in one of the Queen’s last official acts before her death.
Truss hailed the “Second Elizabethan Age”, five centuries after the famous first.
“We offer him (Charles) our loyalty and our devotion, just as his mother devoted so much to so many people for so long,” she said in a televised address on Thursday. “May God save the king.”
Charles was also due to meet those responsible for making preparations for his mother’s elaborate state funeral, which will take place before her interment in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Gun salutes – one shot for each year of the Queen’s life – will be fired through Hyde Park in central London and from the Tower of London on the River Thames on Friday.
Muffled church bells will ring at Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor, among others, and Union flags waved at half mast across the UK.
Truss and other senior ministers were due to attend a public service of remembrance at St Paul’s, while the UK parliament will begin two days of special tributes.
The Queen’s death and its ceremonial aftermath come as the government scrambles to rush emergency legislation to tackle the kind of war-fueled economic deprivation that marked the start of Elizabeth’s reign in 1952.
Elizabeth’s public appearances had become rarer in the months since she spent an unscheduled night in hospital in October 2021 for undisclosed health tests.
She was seen smiling in her last official photographs on Tuesday when she named Truss the 15th prime minister of her reign, which began with Winston Churchill in Downing Street.
But the queen, visibly thinner and stooped, was leaning on a cane. His hand was also bruised dark blue-violet, causing concern.
Jane Barlow, the photographer who took the final public photos of the Queen on Tuesday, said she was “frail” but in “good spirits”.
“I got a lot of smiles from her,” said Barlow, who works for Britain’s Press Association news agency.
The Queen’s closest family members had rushed to be by her bedside at Balmoral, a private residence set amid thousands of acres (hectares) of rolling moorland and grouse woodland in the Scottish Highlands.
His body is expected to remain there initially before being transported to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on Sunday.
From the Scottish capital, his coffin is due to fly to London on Tuesday for a public burial.
Officials expect more than a million people to file past the catafalque in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the parliament complex, ahead of the televised funeral at Westminster Abbey opposite.
Braving steady rain, crowds gathered late Thursday night outside Buckingham Palace in London and Windsor Castle to the west of the capital, laying flowers and reflecting on his long reign.
Londoner Joshua Ellis, 24, held back tears as he mourned the ‘grandmother of the nation’ at the palace.
“I know she’s 96 but there’s still a sense of shock. She’s in all of our minds and hearts,” he said.
“You can always look to the Queen, to a sense of stability. Whenever people needed support, she was there.
At dawn on Friday, Joan Russell, a 55-year-old project manager from Hackney, north-east London, had tears streaming down her cheeks as she gazed at the flowers outside the palace.
“I think I came to say a prayer. She has been our monarch all my life and she led by example, she taught, she listened, wherever you go, she is our brand,” she told AFP.
“Charles had such a great example to follow. I believe he will do everything possible to carry on the legacy of his parents – his mother and father – entrusted to him.
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne at just 25 in the aftermath of World War II, joining a global stage dominated by political figures from Churchill to Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.
Over the following decades, the last remnants of Britain’s vast empire crumbled.
At home, Brexit shook the foundations of her kingdom and her family endured a series of scandals.
But throughout, she remained ever popular and served as head of state not only of the UK, but of 14 former British colonies, including Australia and Canada.
New Zealand has proclaimed Charles its new king. But Australia’s new government appears set to reignite a push to ditch the monarchy, casting doubt on its legacy even as it mourns the Queen.
The final public farewell at Westminster Abbey in London will be a public holiday in the form of a National Day of Mourning.
Charles’ coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic setting as it has for centuries, on a date to be determined.
On Saturday, his reign will be formally proclaimed by the Membership Council, which includes senior politicians, bishops, City of London dignitaries and Commonwealth ambassadors.
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