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King Charles III is the longest-serving heir apparent and the longest-serving Prince of Wales in British history.
His Majesty’s long service as a senior member of the Royal Family, including the period when he took on some of the Queen’s duties late in her reign, has given the King an extensive and thorough preparation for the constitutional, ceremonial, and community duties of Monarch.
Prince Charles became King upon the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral on 8 September 2022. No formal process was necessary for the King’s immediate accession to the throne.
This is in keeping with the principle that the monarch ‘never dies’ – as soon as one monarch passes away, another takes his or her place without delay.
Prince Charles became King Charles III, though monarchs have not always used their first name as their ‘regnal’ or reigning name. For instance, King George VI’s first name was Albert, but he chose George as his regnal name.
The death of Her Majesty was followed by a number of traditional ceremonies designed to formalise the accession of King Charles to the throne.
Charles III was formally proclaimed monarch at a meeting of the Accession Council at St James’s Palace in London on 10 September. The Council is usually called as soon as possible after the death of a monarch. This was the first time the ceremony had been televised and seen by the public.
The Accession Proclamation was first read out by the Clerk of the Council inside St James’s Palace. To the sound of trumpet fanfares, the proclamation was then read from a balcony of St James’s Palace by the Herald King of Arms in his traditional ceremonial tabard, declaring in part that:
‘ … the Prince Charles Philip Arthur George is now by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory become our only lawful and rightful liege Lord Charles III, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of his other realms and territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith’.
This public proclamation was also read out in Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and in the City of London.
A similar but shorter form of words was used in proclaiming King Charles in Australia.
In Queensland, the Governor, the Honourable Dr Jeannette Young AC PSM, read out the proclamation at Government House on 11 September in front of a large crowd, stating that the Governor and Executive Council ‘proclaim Prince Charles Philip Arthur George to be King of Australia and of his other realms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth.’
A number of less high-profile constitutional steps also took place: the King, for instance, was required to make an oath to ‘maintain and preserve’ the Church of Scotland.
Peers in the House of Lords were required to take an oath of allegiance to the new monarch. While there is no procedural requirement for members of the House of Commons to follow suit, many senior MPs chose to do so for King Charles.
Most of these events took place while the King was mourning the Queen and preparing for her funeral.
The coronation on 6 May is the last and most spectacular step in the process of formalising the King’s accession.
While the preceding procedures were essentially constitutional in nature, the coronation is at its core a solemn religious service of the Anglican Church.
The moment at which the Archbishop of Canterbury places St Edward’s crown on the King’s head will be, for many, the defining moment ushering in the reign of King Charles III.