Operation London Bridge is in full swing. With a period of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II underway, King Charles III returned to London from Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Friday and addressed the nation for the first time as King.
In his televised speech, the King talked warmly about his mother and her devotion to her role as sovereign.
"Queen Elizabeth’s was a life well-lived, a promise with destiny kept. And she is mourned most deeply in her passing," he said.
Charles was declared King on Thursday immediately after his mother's death. At 73, he is the oldest person to assume the throne.
Hours before the much-anticipated speech, he and Camilla, Queen Consort, were greeted by an effusive crowd as they arrived at Buckingham Palace. He shook hands, and together, they admired the rows of flowers placed outside the palace in the late Queen's honor.
He then met with Prime Minister Liz Truss at Buckingham Palace for about half an hour, the BBC reported. Truss was last to be photographed with the late Queen at Balmoral on Tuesday, when she was appointed prime minister.
In his address, Charles pledged, as his mother did all those years ago, to serve loyally as monarch.
"Wherever you may live in the United Kingdom or in the realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect, and love, as I have throughout my life," he said in his speech.
Charles also announced that his firstborn, Prince William, will inherit the Duchy of Cornwall and succeed him as the Duke of Cornwall. As heir to the throne, William was also conferred the title Prince of Wales, and his wife Catherine the Princess of Wales.
The King also made a brief mention of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, who officially separated from the royal family in 2021. The couple now lives in California with their two young children, Archie and Lilibet, who is named after the late Queen.
"I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas," he said.
His speech on Friday marked the start of the transition of the throne. Charles will be proclaimed King on Saturday after meeting with an Accession Council, a group of counselors who advise the monarch.
He ended his address by acknowledging the public's support.
"On behalf of all my family, I can only offer the most sincere and heartfelt thanks for your condolences and support. They mean more to me than I can ever possibly express," he said. "And to my darling mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late papa, I want simply to say this: Thank you. Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years."
A period of national mourning began on Friday, and is set to continue until the end of the day of the state funeral. Sports games — including English Premier League matches — have been postponed, and government affairs have been scaled back. Filming of the popular TV series The Crown was put on pause Friday, and the show will also suspend filming on the day of the funeral.
The royal mourning, which is observed by members of the royal family and royal household staff, is in place until seven days after the funeral.
The Queen's state funeral is expected to take place in less than two weeks, the BBC reported, though the exact date has not yet been announced. She will be laid to rest at Windsor Castle in the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St. George’s Chapel.
William and Harry separately left Balmoral and headed to Windsor on Friday to reunite with their spouses.
Ninety-six gun salutes were fired in Hyde Park and other locations in the early afternoon on Friday, one round for each year of the queen's life. Flags at the royal residences will remain at half-mast until the morning after the last day of mourning.
A service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London at 6 p.m. on Friday. The prime minister and other senior ministers attended, as well as thousands of members of the public.
Colleen Elizabeth Clarke, 20, a student from Miami, Florida, was among the few who managed to get a ticket for the service. Clarke was tearful when she left the church; she told BuzzFeed News that she was grateful to have experienced history.
"They put an emphasis on the Queen's relationship with God and how she did everything through God," Clarke said. "It was really sad because she is close to my grandmother's age, like my grandma's a year younger."
Outside the church, hundreds of people without a ticket streamed the memorial through BBC iPlayer on their cellphones.
Among them were three university students from the United States who were in the UK for a semester. Erin Bolch, Ava Navarro, and Brianna Butkiewicz said they missed out on tickets as they found out too late, but wanted to be outside St. Paul's Cathedral as they didn’t want to miss a historical moment.
"We were saying, we don't have like a person that all of this would be the same for you. Like if our president died it would be a big deal, but it wouldn't be like 10 days of mourning and stuff like that," Bolch said.
"It’s just crazy to see how a country reacts to something so major and comes together like that," Bolch added.
Navarro said they had gone to Buckingham Palace last night and saw people paying their respects.
"It's just to experience this and to just be able to say to like your kids and your grandkids that you were in London and you went to these things, like you're a part of history," Navarro said.
Correction: Queen Elizabeth II will be laid to rest at Windsor Castle, and King Charles III will be proclaimed on Saturday. An earlier version of this post misstated the location of the queen’s resting place and the date of the King’s proclamation.