King Charles III promised to carry on his mother’s “abiding love of tradition” and lifelong commitment to service in a speech recorded at Buckingham Palace and broadcast just before the start of a special service of prayer and reflection for the Queen at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
He also announced the appointment of his eldest son, William, as Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, formalizing his role as heir. And in what many would regard a magnanimous gesture, given the recent history, he also expressed “my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
“Queen Elizabeth was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept and she is mourned most deeply in her passing. That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today,” the King said Friday in his first speech as sovereign.
There have been questions about how Charles will fill the role of king since the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday at Scotland’s Balmoral Castle. He has never been as popular as some other members of the Royal Family and taking over from an icon like the Queen, who reigned for 70 years, was always going to be a challenge. Charles had also been the longest heir to the throne in British history and many wondered whether he would be up to the task given that he’s 73 years old.
Many people were waiting for the speech to get their first measure of him. But there were early signs on Friday that the public has begun to warm up to Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort.
The couple were met with steady applause and cheering when they arrived at Buckingham Palace on Friday afternoon after spending Thursday at Balmoral to be by the Queen’s side. As the King waded into the crowd to shake the hands of well-wishers, one woman kissed him and there were shouts of “God Save the King” and “Hail to the King.”
“I’ll support everything that he does,” said Penny Thompson, 23, after she caught a glimpse of the couple as they drove up to the palace. “He doesn’t have the same connection to people as she did, but we’ll see. Give him time.”
At the King and Queen pub in central London, patrons sat silently as Charles spoke. They listened closely as he talked about his mother’s dedication to duty and service, and her devotion to the church.
The King also made reference to his history of taking up various causes and making his views known on a variety of issues, and acknowledged that his life would change. “It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply,” he said.
The King ended his remarks with a touching address to his “darling mama.”
“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years. May ‘flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ "
The moment he finished speaking, the pub erupted into applause and shouts of “God Save the King.”
“That was emotional,” one man said to his drinking partner as the clapping died down.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Danny Leavens who stopped by the pub for a pint after working on a nearby construction site. “He was really choking up.” Mr. Leavens said he hadn’t given Charles much thought but he now believes he’ll be a strong king. “I think he’ll shake things up and that will be a good thing.”
His friend Jonathan Brown said that six months ago he hoped Charles would abdicate so that Prince William could become king. But after watching Charles speak on Friday, Mr. Brown has changed his opinion. “That was a very loving speech,” he said. “Just the right tone.” He too hopes Charles takes up causes and doesn’t hold back from speaking his mind. “Maybe it’s time for someone who is willing to take things on.”
But others remain unconvinced. “He’ll struggle to replicate the connection that the Queen had,” said Elliot Volpe, 24, as he stood near Buckingham Palace. “Especially for our generation. It’s more William and Kate are the ones that are going to be more in touch with our generation.”
Although he became king the moment the Queen died, Charles will be officially be proclaimed monarch after a meeting of the Accession Council on Saturday. Tradition dictates that there will also be various proclamations around London and King Charles will travel to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be formally received as king.
The Queen’s coffin remains in Edinburgh and there will be a service for her at St. Giles’ Cathedral. The coffin will then be flown to London and next week the Queen will lie in state at Westminster Hall, the oldest building on the parliamentary estate, for four days. Her funeral will be held across the street at Westminster Abbey, likely on Sept. 19.
Friday was filled with tributes to the Queen as Britain began a period of mourning that will last until after her funeral. Church bells rang out across the nation at noon. That was followed an hour later by gun salutes in London’s Hyde Park and other locations that included 96 blasts, one for each year of her life. The House of Commons also held a special session on Friday for members of Parliament to pay their respects.
Around 2,000 people, including Prime Minister Liz Truss, packed into St. Paul’s Cathedral for Friday’s prayer service. As the proceedings ended, the congregation stood for the first official singing of Britain’s revised national anthem, God Save the King.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.