King Charles III was due to address his new subjects on Friday, as Britain was plunged into mourning over the death of Queen Elizabeth II, ending a history that spanned 70 years of reign.
Charles, 73, became monarch immediately after his mother’s death during her retreat in the Scottish Highlands on Thursday, sparking tributes at home and abroad.
He will return to London from Balmoral, where the 96-year-old queen died “peacefully” after a year-long period of ill health and decline.
Details of his inaugural address, which were to be pre-recorded, were not immediately released by the palace, but are part of 10 days of detailed, pre-prepared plans that have been honed over decades.
Also on Friday, the new king is expected to hold his first audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was appointed only Tuesday in one of the queen’s last ceremonial acts before her death.
He would also meet with officials responsible for his accession and the elaborate arrangements for his mother’s regular funeral.
He will decide the length of the royal family’s mourning period, which is expected to last a month, while the British government will observe 10 days of official commemoration when limited business is done.
Salutes will be fired – one salute for each year of the Queen’s life – over Hyde Park in central London and from the Tower of London, the old royal fortress on the River Thames.
Muted church bells ring at Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor Castle, among other places, and Union flags are flown at half-mast.
Truss and other senior ministers will attend a public memorial service at St Paul’s, while the British Parliament will begin two days of special tribute.
The Queen’s death and its ceremonial aftermath come as the government strives to pass emergency legislation to address the kind of war-fueled economic hardship that marked the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign in 1952.
British newspapers were inevitably dominated by the death of the Queen and printed special editions to mark the occasion.
“Our hearts are broken,” headlined the popular Daily Mail tabloid. “We loved you ma’am,” said The Sun. The Mirror simply wrote: “Thank you.”
Elizabeth, whose public appearances had become rarer, died after months of ill health that first came to light after spending an unscheduled night in hospital in October 2021 for undisclosed health tests.
In one of her last official acts, she named Truss the 15th Prime Minister of her government on Tuesday, which began with Winston Churchill in Downing Street.
In pictures she was seen smiling, but she looked weak and was leaning on a cane. Her hand was also bruised dark blue-purple, which was worrying.
Her coffin will initially remain in Balmoral, a private residence set amid thousands of acres (hectares) of rolling moorland and woodland.
Her close relatives were rushed to be at her bedside in Balmoral, where her body will now lie before being taken to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
From there, it is expected to travel by train to London for a state and funeral service.
Speaking on the steps of Downing Street shortly after her death was announced, Truss praised the ‘second Elizabethan era’, five centuries after the celebrated first.
“We offer him (Charles) our loyalty and devotion, just as his mother has devoted so much to so many for so long,” she said in the televised address. “God protect the king.”
Braving persistent rain, crowds gathered outside London’s Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle west of the capital until late Thursday evening, with the number of benefactors set to grow in the coming days.
Londoner Joshua Ellis, 24, swallowed tears as he mourned the ‘grandmother of the country’ at the palace.
“I know she’s 96, but there’s still a sense of shock. She’s in all our thoughts and hearts,” he said. “You could always look at the Queen, a sense of stability. Whenever people needed support, she was there.”
Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne at the age of 25 in the exhausted aftermath of World War II, entering a world stage dominated by political figures from Winston Churchill to Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.
Its record-breaking reign spanned two centuries of seismic social, political and technological upheaval.
The last vestiges of Britain’s vast empire crumbled. At home, Brexit shook the foundations of her kingdom and her family faced a series of scandals.
But she remained consistently popular and was head of state not only of the United Kingdom, but also of 14 former British colonies, including Australia and Canada.
New Zealand proclaimed Charles its new king. But Australia’s new government appears to be making an effort to ditch the monarchy, casting doubt on its legacy, even as it mourns the Queen.
Britain’s mourning will culminate in a final public farewell at Westminster Abbey in London. The funeral day becomes a holiday in the form of a day of national mourning.
Charlemagne’s coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic setting, as it has been for centuries, at a date to be determined.
On Saturday, his government will be formally proclaimed by the Accession Council, which consists of leading politicians, bishops, dignitaries from the City of London and Commonwealth ambassadors.
In a statement, the new king described his mother as a “cherished sovereign” whose loss would be “deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world”.
“During this period of grief and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was held so widely,” said Charles.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)