King Charles III looked close to tears today as Parliament sang ‘God Save the King’ after he addressed MPs and peers for the first time telling them he could ‘feel the weight of history’ on his shoulders following their own tributes to his ‘beloved mother’. In a historic speech where he vowed to follow the Queen’s selfless duty, His Majesty also looked moved as the Lord Speaker and the Commons Speaker expressed their condolences and said: ‘Deep as our grief is, we know yours is deeper.’
The King stood at a gilded lectern to speak to the crowd assembled in Westminster Hall and thanked the hundreds of politicians and peers, including Liz Truss, Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson, for their tributes his mother. Charles said the late Queen had ‘set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.’
In his short, poignant speech, Charles quoted Shakespeare in his tribute to his ‘beloved mother’ as he addressed Parliament for the first time since becoming monarch, saying of the Queen: ‘As Shakespeare said of the earlier Queen Elizabeth, she was a pattern to all princes living.’ He said: ‘As I stand before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history which surrounds us and which reminds us of the vital parliamentary traditions to which members of both Houses dedicate yourselves with such personal commitment, for the betterment of us all.’
He added: ‘I am deeply grateful for addresses of condolence, which so touchingly encompass what late sovereign beloved mother meant to us all’. The hundreds of dignitaries then stood for the national anthem, which moved the new King to tears on a day where he will be seen in public with the Queen’s coffin for the first time in Scotland this afternoon. The King told MPs and peers assembled in Westminster Hall that he was ‘resolved faithfully to follow’ the example of his mother, the Queen.
He concluded his first formal address to Parliament as King by saying: ‘We gather today in remembrance of the remarkable span of the Queen’s dedicated service to her nations and peoples. ‘While very young, Her late Majesty pledged herself to serve her country and her people and to maintain the precious principles of constitutional government which lie at the heart of our nation. ‘This vow she kept with unsurpassed devotion. She set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.’
There were wild cheers and cries of ‘God Save the King’ as the monarch drove from Clarence House down The Mall for the historic moment before MPs and peers bowed and curtseyed as he walked slowly to his throne with Queen Consort, Camilla. Liz Truss and her predecessor Boris Johnson were also in Westminster Hall this morning along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and hundreds of politicians. His Majesty heard tributes for the Queen in the near-1,000-year-old Westminster Hall – the ancient heart of the Palace of Westminster where his mother will lie in state from Wednesday evening for four days until her funeral next Monday. At times Charles looked deeply moved.
The Lord Speaker and the Commons Speaker expressed their condolences to His Majesty in a ceremony in Westminster Hall. Charles received a motion of confidence from both houses of Parliament – in another constitutional event that has never been seen on TV before. The Lord Speaker Lord McFall of Alcluith said people will continue to draw strength from the Queen’s “shining example”. Speaking in Westminster Hall, he said: “In 2012, Her late Majesty came to Westminster Hall to mark her Diamond Jubilee and we saw the unveiling of the splendid memorial window, commissioned by both members of Parliament’s Houses, which now graces the north wall of this historic space.
“Like the light that shines through this memorial window, Her late Majesty’s magnificent achievements will live on by permanently illuminating and enriching our lives and our national discourse. “Your Majesty, even as we mourn the loss of our dear Queen, we and future generations will draw strength from her shining example. “Your Majesty, on behalf of all the members of the House of Lords, I pledge my loyalty to you. I wish you and Her Majesty the Queen Consort well in the life of service to which you have dedicated yourself.
“We are proud and indeed humbled to welcome you as our King. And we look forward to welcoming you on many more occasions to Parliament, and to this hall in the years ahead.” Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told Westminster Hall that in his first address King Charles ‘pledged to uphold constitutional principles at the heart of our nation’. Sir Lindsay said: ‘In your first address to the nation you recognised your life would change as a result of the new responsibilities. ‘You pledged yourself to uphold constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.
‘These are weighty responsibilities, as the early Queen Elizabeth said in her final speech to parliamentarians ‘to be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it’.’ He added: ‘We know you hold the greatest respect, the precious traditions, the freedoms, and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government. ‘We know that you will bear those responsibilities which fall to you with the fortitude, dignity, demonstrated by Her late Majesty.’ It is perhaps ‘very British’ to celebrate revolutions by presenting an address to Her Majesty, Sir Lindsay said.
Presenting an address to the King on behalf of the lower house, the Commons Speaker told Westminster Hall: ‘Let me repeat a welcome to you and to Her Majesty, the Queen Consort, on this solemn occasion. ‘Members of both Houses of Parliament gather here to express our deep sympathy for the loss we have all sustained in the death of our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth. We have seen that this is a loss that is felt around the world.’
He went on: ‘Our late Queen was here to mark the historic moments, such as the 50th anniversary of the Second World War, a war in which she herself served in the armed forces. ‘And in 1988, we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the revolutions of 1688 to 1689. ‘It is perhaps very British to celebrate revolutions by presenting an address to Her Majesty; but those revolutions led to our constitutional freedoms, set out the foundation for a stable monarchy, which protects liberty.’
The medieval hall was full to bursting with peers and MPs crammed in to see the King and Queen Consort. As well as the party leaders those present included Labour left wingers likeJeremy Corbyn, John McDonnel and Zara Sultana, who would not be counted among the most royalist of MPs. Apart from music from the Band of the Household Cavalry the crowd was completely silent. The only noises that could be heard before the royal arrival was the thud of circling news helicopters outside and the sharp clack of staffs carried by the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, who provided a symbolic bodyguard.
As the King left the hall he appeared to speak to those he was passing and was repaid with bows and curtsies from those lining the passage. King Charles and the Queen Consort will fly into the Scottish capital after Midday and travel to the palace to inspect a guard of honour. The King follow the hearse to St Giles’ Cathedral – the first time he will have been seen with his mother’s coffin – amid rumours Prince William, Prince Harry and their wives Kate and Meghan could also be there after their shock reunion outside Windsor Castle on Saturday.
At 2.35pm, Charles and Camilla will join a procession to St Giles’ Cathedral 1,200 yards away. Charles and other royals will walk behind the hearse as it makes its way along the Royal Mile. Full details about the royal mourners have yet to be released but there is speculation the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the new Prince and Princess of Wales, who on Saturday put on a united front during an appearance at Windsor Castle, will be part of the group. Charles will lead some of the royals on foot, expected to be the Duke of York, Earl of Wessex, Princess Royal and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence – while the Queen Consort and other members of the monarchy will follow in cars.
At the cathedral, the Crown of Scotland will be placed upon the coffin. After a service, members of the public will be allowed to file past to pay their respects. At 7.20pm the King and his brothers will perform the Vigil of The Princes. The coffin is expected to be flown to London tomorrow evening, again with Princess Anne accompanying her mother.
On arrival at RAF Northolt in west London at 6.55pm, the coffin will be transferred to the State Hearse. At Buckingham Palace, a guard of honour will receive the coffin. A bearer party of the Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, will carry it to the Bow Room where it will be placed on trestles, witnessed by King Charles and the Queen Consort. Chaplains to the King will keep watch over the coffin.