King Charles III pledged a “lifetime of service” to the United Kingdom as he bid a touching farewell to “my dear mum” in his first address to the nation as the new monarch.
In a broadcast from Buckingham Palace, the king spoke of his “feelings of deep sorrow” at the queen’s death on Thursday at the age of 96 and vowed to continue her tradition of constitutional monarchy.
He announced that he was creating his eldest son and heir William and his wife Kate Prince and Princess of Wales and his wife Camilla Queen Consort.
And he made it clear he wanted to draw a line under the rifts in the royal family following the withdrawal of younger son Harry and wife Meghan from official duties, with a tender message offering “my love… as they continue to build their lives in abroad”.
The address came after a moving journey from the site of Elizabeth II’s death at Balmoral to London, where he and Camilla were greeted by a crowd of thousands outside the palace.
As his royal Bentley approached, there were shouts of “God save the King” from the crowd of thousands, some of whom had waited for hours through the sometimes heavy rain to get their first glimpse of the new monarch.
One woman pecked Charles on the cheek and another gripped his hand with both of hers and kissed it.
In a sign of the great personal loss that accompanied his ascension to the throne, the new king told well-wishers: “I was really dreading that day.”
His address was broadcast at St Paul’s Cathedral, where Prime Minister Liz Truss joined 2,000 members of the public in a service of thanksgiving for the Queen’s life.
The service witnessed the first official performance of the national anthem of Charles’ reign under its new title, “God Save the King”.
Wearing a dark suit and black tie, King Charles paid tribute to the Queen’s “love, affection, guidance, understanding and example”.
And he said, “Queen Elizabeth’s life was well lived; a promise with fate kept, and she mourned most deeply at her passing. This promise of lifelong service I renew to all of you today.”
In poignant words addressed directly to ‘my dear mum as you embark on your last great journey to join my dear late dad’, he concluded: ‘Thank you. Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years.
“Let flights of angels sing thee thy rest.”
Promising to follow his mother’s example of royal service until his death, Charles also promised to uphold the principle of constitutional monarchy in place since the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
“As the Queen herself has done with such unwavering devotion, I now also solemnly swear, during the remaining time that God gives me, to uphold constitutional principles at the heart of our nation,” he said.
“And wherever you live in the UK or in kingdoms and territories around the world, and whatever your background or beliefs, I will aim to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have done throughout my life. “
Charles said he was relying on the “loving help of my dear wife Camilla” – now Queen Consort – to support him in his new role.
And he confirmed that as well as inheriting his previous title of Duke of Cornwall and his old Scottish titles, William would follow him to become Prince of Wales, an honor bestowed on heirs to the throne since 1301.
“With Catherine by his side, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginalized to the center where vital help can be provided,” King Charles said.
After returning from Balmoral, Charles held his first audience with the prime minister, who had earlier chaired a special cabinet meeting in the Queen’s honor and led MPs in honors in the House of Commons.
Liz Truss – who visited the Queen just three days earlier at Balmoral to be invited to form a government – hailed her as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.’
“She reinvented the monarchy for the modern age,” the prime minister said.
“She was a defender of freedom and democracy around the world. She wanted to have fun – whether it was on a mission with 007 or having tea with Paddington Bear.”
Her predecessor Boris Johnson described how he “choked up” with tears earlier this year when asked to speak about the Queen in the past tense for an obituary being recorded for the BBC.
“I was so overcome with sadness that I had to ask them to leave,” said Mr Johnson, who described the late monarch as “Elizabeth the Great” – a soubriquet previously applied only to Alfred among British sovereigns.
A crowd of thousands stood in solemn silence in Hyde Park as 96 shots – one for each year of the Queen’s life – were fired by the Royal Troops’ Royal Horse Artillery in a 16-minute gun salute.
None of the royals were present in St Paul’s for what was seen as an opportunity for ordinary citizens to give thanks for the Queen’s life.
They heard the Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally hailing the late monarch as “a remarkable constant in the lives of millions, a symbol of unity, strength, patience and endurance… the unmistakable heartbeat of this nation in times of progress, joy and celebration, as and as in many darker and more difficult seasons”.
Mrs Truss, dressed in black, read the Bible from Romans 14.7-12 reflecting the Queen’s faith and selfless service: “We do not live to ourselves and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, to the Lord we live and if we die, to the Lord we die.
“So whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
It is just over three months since the cathedral was the venue for a service of thanksgiving during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
On Saturday morning, Charles will be formally proclaimed king at an Accession Council at St James’s Palace, attended by the Prime Minister and around 200 members of the Privy Council.
The ceremony, including Charles’ declaration and oath, will be televised for the first time in history.
The king has declared a period of royal mourning lasting up to seven days after his mother’s funeral, on a date yet to be announced.
But union flags on royal residences and prominent public buildings will be flown at full mast for 26 hours at the weekend in recognition of his reign, before being lowered to half-mast for the remainder of the mourning period.