Charles III Officially Proclaimed King In First-Ever Televised Accession Council Ceremony

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Charles III has officially been proclaimed the King of the United Kingdom and fourteen Commonwealth realms during a meeting of the Accession Council in London on Saturday morning. It is the first time in history the ceremony has ever been televised.

U.K. networks including BBC, ITV and Sky broadcast the ceremony live at 10AM local time as did U.S. networks including NBC, where Savannah Guthrie was anchoring for an early morning special of the “Today Show.”

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Broadcasting the Accession Council ceremony is significant and, according to historian Vernon Bogdnaor “a sign of the times that the monarchy has to adapt to a more open and less deferential society,” as he told BBC News.

When Queen Elizabeth acceded to the throne in 1952 there was not even a discussion that the ceremony should be televised while a debate then ensued over broadcasting her coronation the following year. In the event, it was broadcast on the BBC, with over 20 million people tuning in to watch.

Charles automatically became king the moment his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on Thursday. The accession ceremony is therefore a purely formal event dating back to 1603 in which a new monarch is publicly proclaimed. It is not a coronation, which will come later (possibly next year), but merely “a symbolic ceremony confirming what we already know, which is that we have a new king,” said Bogdanor.

It takes place immediately after the death of a monarch, usually the next day. Because the Queen died after 4pm on a Thursday, however, the ceremony took place some 36 hours later, on Saturday at 10AM local time.

The Accession Council, is comprised mostly of Privy Council members, which are senior politicians, judges and Commonwealth leaders, among others. The Privy Council was historically an advisory body to the monarch, which dates back to Anglo Saxon times but today it is more of a formality.

Among the 200 Privy Council members who attended today were the last five Prime Ministers – Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair – as well as the current and former leaders of the opposition Keir Starmer and Ed Miliband and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The ceremony was made up of two parts, the first consisting only of the Accession Council, who witnessed the proclamation in the Picture Gallery in St James Palace while those invited onto the platform – which included the new Prince of Wales, Prince William, Camilla the Queen Consort, the current Prime Minister Liz Truss, the Lord President, Penny Mordaunt, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Lord Privy Seal, and the Earl Marshall – signed a document witnessing the proclamation. It took around 10 minutes.

Following the first part of the Accession Council, the Lord Mayor of London immediately was sent out to the City of London to make a public declaration of the king’s confirmation and similar statements were made in Scotland and other areas of the country, followed by ceremonial gun fire. It harks back to a time before newspapers, radio or live television where the only way to spread the message of a new king was by having a town crier or someone make the announcement in person.

The second part took place in the Throne Room, where King Charles gave a speech paying tribute to his mother and pledging his service to the country. He also took an oath relating to “the safety and security of the Church of Scotland” which he read aloud and then signed a print version. He also confirmed that the day of the Queen’s funeral would be declared a public holiday.

The next major royal event now is likely to be the Queen’s lying in state at Wesminster Abbey followed by her funeral. This is believed to take place next weekend but the date has not yet been confirmed at time of writing.

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