King Charles III paid tribute to his late mother Queen Elizabeth II in his first address as monarch on Friday, telling his subjects that he would endeavor to reflect her spirit of duty and sacrifice in his own time on the throne.
“As the Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself throughout the remaining time God grants me to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation,” Charles said in his speech, which was broadcast to millions around the world.
“And 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,” the King said.
The speech was broadcast from Buckingham Palace, where the King was pictured dressed in black and speaking at a desk upon which a framed portrait of the late Queen had been placed.
Charles opened his speech by speaking of his “profound sorrow” and “personal grief” at the death of his mother, whom he called his “darling Mama.”
Referencing the 1947 speech she gave as a 21-year-old in which she pledged her whole life to service, the King said she had more than upheld that commitment.
“That was more than a promise; it was a profound personal commitment, which defined her whole life,” Charles said. “She made sacrifices for duty. Her dedication and devotion as sovereign never wavered through times of change and progress, through times of joy and celebration, and through times of sadness and loss.”
He also reflected on the profound cultural and technological advances the world had made since the Queen began her reign in 1952, but added, “Our values have remained, and must remain, constant.”
With the slight air of a man grappling with his profound new role, Charles also spoke with some sadness about the changes coming to his own life, noting he would no longer be able to devote so much time to his preferred charitable causes.
“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,” he said. “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 King concluded.
The King’s address came as hundreds attended a packed service of prayer and reflection at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The new King had returned from Balmoral Castle in Scotland earlier on Friday, traveling by plane with the Queen Consort to London. There, they traveled to Buckingham Palace, where the pair mingled with well-wishers outside the palace gates and inspected some of the flower bouquets left by mourners.
The King also held a private audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss, the new British leader who only formally came into the office on Tuesday when she met with the Queen at Balmoral and was invited to form a government.
At 73, King Charles is the oldest person to ever assume the British throne, which happened automatically upon his mother’s death on Thursday. Per custom, he will be named by the Accession Council on Saturday, a group of counselors who will formally proclaim him as King. Following that, a formal coronation will take place in the months ahead once a respectful amount of time has passed.
The death of the Queen also meant other changes to the line of succession and titles for other members of the royal family. Prince William, the oldest son of the King, is now the first heir, with his three children behind him by order of age.
Once Charles and Camilla became King and Queen Consort, William and Catherine also automatically assumed the pair’s old duchies, becoming the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge.
But in his speech on Friday, the King also formally named William and Catherine as the Prince and Princess of Wales, the traditional title for the heir apparent. It is likely a public investiture ceremony, similar to the one the Queen held for her son in 1969, will follow at some point.
Once Charles became King, the two children of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, technically were also elevated in status.
Under royal protocols dating back to 1917, the children and grandchildren of the sovereign are entitled to the titles HRH and prince or princess, meaning Harry and Meghan’s children are now Prince Archie and Princess Lillibet.
In his speech, the King made sure to mention Harry and Meghan, who moved to California after leaving royal life, saying that he wanted to express his love “as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
He also thanked his wife, Camilla, saying he could count on her both personally and as sovereign to fulfill the demands of her new role.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Prince Harry in one instance.