LONDON (AP) — King Charles III was formally proclaimed sovereign of the United Kingdom on Saturday, as officials unveiled details of the meticulously choreographed ceremonies that will culminate in the state funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on Sept. 19.
In this time of sorrow for the House of Windsor, there were hints of a possible family reconciliation. Prince William and his brother Harry, together with Catherine, now Princess of Wales and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, delighted mourners near Windsor Castle with a surprise joint appearance to thank the public for their floral tributes and condolences.
It was the first time that quarrelling younger royal generation had worked together publicly since the Sussexes stepped aside from royal duties in 2020 and moved to California. The thousands who flocked to Windsor on a sunny day were in their thrall, as the couples gratefully accepted flowers, talked to parents and children at length, shook hands and accepted heartfelt condolences.
Meghan approached a teenager in the crowd, who put her hand over her mouth in shock. The pair spoke briefly then the girl said: “Can I have a hug?” Meghan leaned in to give her a big hug.
Catherine, for her part, focused on young children in the crowd, bending down low to speak to them warmly face-to-face.
The late sovereign’s coffin now rests at Balmoral Castle, the summer retreat in the Scottish Highlands where Elizabeth died on Thursday. Palace officials promised Saturday that the public will have opportunities to see the late monarch’s oak coffin as it journeys from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh and then to London, where her body will lie in state for four days starting Wednesday.
Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, the official in charge of funeral arrangements, said the ceremonies would be “a fitting farewell to one of the defining figures of our times.”
The queen’s eldest son and successor Charles was officially proclaimed Britain’s monarch Saturday in a pomp-filled ceremony steeped in ancient tradition and political symbolism — and, for the first time, broadcast live on television and online.
The 73-year-old Charles, who spent seven decades as heir apparent, automatically became king when his mother died and vowed to follow her example. But the accession ceremony was a key constitutional and ceremonial step that introduced the new monarch to the country, a relic of a time before mass communications.
“I am deeply aware of this great inheritance and of the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty which have now passed to me,” Charles said as he took on the duties of monarch.
New British Prime Minister Liz Truss and five of her predecessors were among scores of current and former British politicians who gathered at St. James’s Palace for the meeting of the Accession Council.
Saturday’s accession ceremony ended with a royal official publicly proclaiming King Charles III to be the country’s new monarch from a balcony at the palace. In centuries past, this would have been the first official confirmation the public had of their new sovereign.
David White, the Garter King of Arms, made the proclamation, flanked by trumpeters in gold-trimmed robes before leading cheers — “hip, hip, hooray!” — for the new king. Gun salutes rang out in Hyde Park, at the Tower of London and at military sites around the U.K. as he announced the news, and scarlet-robed soldiers in the palace courtyard doffed their bearskin hats in a royal salute.
The proclamation was read at other locations across the U.K., including in the medieval City of London.
The new king formally approved a series of orders, including one declaring the day of his mother’s funeral as a public holiday.
Charles was accompanied at the ceremony by wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, and eldest son Prince William, who is now heir to the throne and known by the title that Charles long held, the Prince of Wales. In his first statement since his grandmother’s death, William said the queen “was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life” — a clear reference to the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in 1997.
“I knew this day would come, but it will be some time before the reality of life without Grannie will truly feel real,” William said.
People came by the thousands to pay their respects outside Buckingham Palace in London. The scene was repeated at other royal residences across the U.K. and at British embassies around the world.
For many Britons, the queen’s passing, though long expected, is a destabilizing experience. Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch most have ever known, and her death comes as many Britons are facing an energy crisis, the soaring cost of living, the uncertainties of the war in Ukraine and the fallout from Brexit.
The country has also just seen a change of leader. Truss was appointed prime minister by the queen on Tuesday, just two days before the monarch died. On Saturday, Truss and other senior U.K. lawmakers lined up in the House of Commons to take an oath of loyalty to the new king.
Normal parliamentary business has been suspended during a period of mourning for the queen. The House of Commons held a rare Saturday session so lawmakers could pay tribute to the late monarch.
Charles has struck a note of continuity, vowing in a televised address Friday to carry on the queen’s “lifelong service,” with his own modernizing stamp.
The new monarch looked both to 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.”
For a second day on Saturday, Charles waded into the crowds to meet his subjects and shake hands. Trying to overcome a reputation for aloofness, in his first days as monarch he is signaling a more relaxed approach to the monarchy than that of his mother.
“It just felt like a really special moment in history,” said Beverly Nash from Kent. “And it was lovely actually seeing him. I didn’t think I would feel as emotional as I did.”