Charles vows to reign with ‘respect and love,’ mourns queen

Church bells rang. Gun salutes rang out in parks and palaces. Mourners lined up in front of memorials and pubs to pay homage to a woman whose name has long been synonymous with her nation.

With some upper lips stiff and others daring to tremble, Brits struggled on Friday with the process of bidding farewell to Queen Elizabeth II – the only monarch most of them have ever known – and settling down to life beneath the reign of a new sovereign, her eldest son, King Charles III.

“It’s just strange,” said Samuel Mackesy, a gift shop worker in central London who scrambled to order Elizabeth memorabilia on Friday while reflecting on the loss of someone he called an “icon”.

“Of course I didn’t know her,” he said. “Few did. But she was something to hold on to. It was there when I was born in 1960 and when I really think about it, it felt like it at times [like] I would die before her.”

Britain was somber as it entered a 10-day national mourning for the Queen, who died on Thursday at the age of 96 as Britain’s longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch. A country that had become somewhat accustomed to political, social, and cultural upheaval now had to face change in one of the few areas of national life that had remained constant for a long time.

On Friday night, Charles went out of his way to reassure everyone who treasured his mother so much that he would carry on his mother’s tradition of serving her people.

“Wherever you live in the UK or in the realms and territories around the world, and whatever your background or beliefs, I will endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I mean it all my life.” Charles said in his first national address as the new king of Britain – and of other nations like Australia and Canada – which recognize the British monarch as their head of state.

He expressed his deep sadness at the death of Elizabeth, for whom “the affection, admiration and respect” of her subjects was “the hallmark of her reign”.

“As any member of my family can attest, she combined those qualities with warmth, humor and an unerring ability to always see the best in people,” said Charles, who at 73 is Britain’s oldest ever new monarch, adding :” To my beloved Mama, as you embark on your final great journey to my dear late Papa, I just want to say this: ‘Thank you, thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served all the years so busy. May swarms of angels sing you to your rest.’”

Elizabeth died Thursday at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in Scotland, barely 48 hours after she appointed a new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, the 15th Prime Minister of her 70-year reign.

Her family had rushed to be by her side. On Friday, Charles returned to London, where he spent several minutes outside Buckingham Palace shaking hands and greeting well-wishers who gathered by the thousands to see their new monarch. “Well done Charlie!” shouted one. Another kissed him.

Charles will officially become king on Saturday; His wife, Camilla, will assume the title of Queen Consort. Though not the nation’s political leader, he takes on a role as its living symbol and unifier, beyond partisan politics.

When he reaches his mother’s age, Charles is likely to outlast several prime ministers, although at 73 he will have a shorter reign. It begins at an uncertain time when Britons grapple every day with soaring energy costs and inflation that have pushed the nation to the brink of recession. The new government also has to deal with the long-term consequences of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

He will also inherit a crown of diminishing reach as the number of nations recognizing his authority dwindles – now 15. Last year Barbados decided to no longer have the British monarch as head of state. Other nations, including Jamaica, are considering similar moves.

On Friday, the mood in London was one of sorrow mixed with questions the Queen’s death has raised about the role of the British royal family in Britain and abroad.

Crowds queued outside the City of London Tourist Office to obtain one of 2,000 tickets to the public for an evening service of “prayer and reflection” at nearby St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by Truss and other dignitaries, and which marked the whole world shone . The hopeful attendees included both tourists and die-hard local monarchy fans.

Sumeeta Patel said she first heard about the Queen as a girl in India when Elizabeth visited her in 1961. The Queen toured Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and New Delhi this year with her late husband, Prince Philip, where they attended a tribute to Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi at the Raj Ghat Memorial.

“I was too young to know much about it, but I remember my parents talking about it when we lived in Delhi. It was a big event,” said Patel, who emigrated to London in the 1980s. “Anyone who is desi knows this woman very well,” she said, using an abbreviation for South Asian.

“I happened to be visiting so I thought why not try going there?” said Ashley Julian, an American from Maryland, who landed in London on vacation on Wednesday and was on the end of the line. “She’s the original world celebrity. Waiting can’t be worse than trying to see the palace.”

The service ended with the first formal public singing of the national anthem in its new version as “God Save the King” instead of “God Save the Queen”.

While the government on Thursday released guidelines saying businesses were “not required” to close in deference to the Queen’s death, many did. Selfridges, a department store chain, said it would be temporarily closing, as would Legoland theme park. The Bank of England postponed a scheduled meeting to discuss rate hikes and Parliamentary business was suspended for 10 days.

Sporting and cultural events have been cancelled, including the Last Night of the Proms – the finale of a classical music festival which traditionally ends with rousing performances of “Rule Britannia” and other patriotic songs.

“Whether you like the Queen or the King or not, you can’t avoid them today,” said Juan Lopez, a medical billing worker who was waiting for a train at East London’s Mile End tube station during the morning commute. “It’s London. Something is always happening here. And however long, that something is the death of the queen. This is London now.”

Elizabeth’s state funeral is expected later this month, although an exact date has not yet been set. It takes place in Westminster Abbey, the traditional location for coronations, weddings and funerals for the royal family. The church is a principal site of the Church of England, part of the global Anglican communion that includes the Episcopal Church in the United States.

In a statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, leader of the communion, paid tribute to Elizabeth. The British monarch is the nominal head of the Church of England.

“The Queen constantly showed us the meaning of life – she was cheerful, she was humorous, her life was fulfilling. But she never lost hope even in bad moments,” Welby said.

“For so many people around the world, especially in the UK, it feels like a part of our lives that we took for granted is no longer there,” he said. “And in that sense, there’s a tremendous shift in the world around us, how we see it and how we understand ourselves.” Charles vows to reign with ‘respect and love,’ mourns queen

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