As Queen Elizabeth II left her beloved Balmoral for the last time, thousands of well-wishers greeted the new monarch as she arrived at Buckingham Palace.
Crowds lined the Mall cheering and waving as the King was driven in the State Rolls-Royce from Clarence House through the palace gates, with the Queen Consort arriving shortly afterwards.
Proclamations declaring the reign of King Charles III, first proclaimed at St James’s Palace on Saturday, were read aloud at ceremonies in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and across the country.
Meanwhile, the king received Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and then attended a reception for high commissioners in the Bow Room at Buckingham Palace.
On Monday, he and the Queen Consort attend the Palace of Westminster to receive speeches from both Houses of Parliament following the Queen’s death. The Lord Speaker and Speaker of the House of Commons will present an address to Her Majesty on behalf of their respective Houses in Westminster Hall. The King will then answer the addresses.
Despite his grief, he was eager to meet the public, shaking hands and accepting flowers from the crowds.
In recent days, the nation had Charles as king for the first time. a glimpse of the measure of the man who now has to carry out “the heavy work that has been entrusted to me.”
He will know how critical those first impressions will be in setting the tone for his reign. He will have labored over every line in his first speech and proclamation of the King.
Not the kind of words we would expect this most solemn mother to have uttered in public. They were deeply emotional, highly personal, highly logical, highly diplomatic.
From his borrowing from Shakespeare’s Horace on Hamlet’s death, asking his mother “May the flights of angels sing thee in thy rest,” to his pride in the newly created Prince and Princess of Wales, to “his love for Harry and Meghan.” the King as son and father.
His message as head of state was equally clear: “to try to serve you with loyalty, love and respect.” And for those interested, the prince stepping in could be a controversial King, a promise to “uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation” and an acknowledgment that his charity work will go into the “trusted hands of others”.
As his former press secretary, Julian Payne, said: “For him, going up will be a perfectly natural transition. From the marching prince to the convening king – to consult, advise and warn, as his mother did before him.”
Certainly, that seems to be his intention from what he’s said so far, though whether it will actually be confirmed remains to be seen.
Right now, though, the King is forced to juggle between carrying out all the necessary state duties required of him with the pomp of proclamations and his role of leading national mourning at a time of deep personal grief. The Queen’s death, he told Prime Minister Liz Truss, was a “moment I dreaded”.
He is now the head of state of a nation where many people are “navigating the raw and weary edges of grief”, as the Archbishop of Canterbury put it in his Sunday sermon at Canterbury Cathedral.
Former Labor prime minister Gordon Brown believes Charles III will usher in a more informal, Scandinavian-style monarchy. “It will be more like a Scandinavian monarchy in the future, but not in a bad way – more informal,” he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuensberg. “He stopped on his way into Buckingham Palace and talked to people in the crowd and that was a signal he was sending that he wanted people to feel he was approachable.”
It was not, Payne wrote in the Sunday Times, a case of “the role he had been ‘waiting’ for” all his life, “but the job he was ready to do when the time came”.
He is, of course, well prepared for what awaits him. He has served “probably the greatest apprenticeship in history”, former Tory prime minister David Cameron told Kuenssberg, adding that he was an “excellent diplomat” and predicting that he would prove a “very worthy successor” when it comes to supporting the British government abroad. .
Tony Blair, writing in the Sunday Times, said: “I feel for King Charles at this moment of heavy responsibility. But I also believe in him.
“Reinforcing his mother’s example, his commitment to duty is clear. He is a smart, caring and good person. His sense of service to his people and his love for them will be as deep as hers.
“Don’t imagine for a moment that in recent years he hasn’t watched, absorbed and thought about what it means to be King. He is well prepared and, I have no doubt, resilient for the task ahead of him.”