United Kingdom: the new King Charles III takes the stage

The English woke up in mourning on Friday morning. At dawn, a crowd of people gathered in front of Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the English sovereigns, to pay their last respects to their late queen. The new king sealed this day of transition with a solemn speech to the nation.

Seventy-five years ago, a 21-year-old Elizabeth II spoke the words that would mark her reign: “I declare that my whole life, long or short, will be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Shortly after 6 p.m. that Friday, his son echoed those words. “I too now solemnly pledge, throughout the remaining time that God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles that are at the heart of our nation,” he said in his first televised address as king.

His 10-minute address, which appeared to be pre-recorded, was largely devoted to the qualities of his late mother, her “love of tradition,” her “fearless embrace of progress,” but also her “warmth and humor.”

This official declaration, which also conferred on the heir William his title of Prince of Wales and thus ensured his dignity as successor to the throne, was the final highlight of a royal entrance.

It all began at 1:00 p.m. sharp in front of Buckingham Palace, when a cannon shot hardened the already grave atmosphere. The crowd, which had been gathered in thousands since the morning, fell silent at once. Another blast followed. Then another. Ninety-six in total, well counted. Like the years lived by the Queen. The English flag at half-mast above the palace was changed to the royal heraldic flag.

Prince Charles, now King Charles III, appeared on foot, all sober. As his first public appearance as monarch, he offered himself a first bath in the crowd, shook hands. This approach remains unorthodox for a newly recognized monarch, even a protocol addict. This is his first gesture in shoes that are big to wear, he who, at 73, is already in the twilight of his life.

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In front of this picture, a man shouts God save the King God save the King”. Others imitate him.

The man in question, Jeff Reeves, jokes with a very british. The king already has his nickname: “Charly”. The late queen is irreplaceable, but Mr. Reeves is pleased with this first step of majesty. “I’m not really a monarchist. It doesn’t make sense on paper, the monarchy. But today it makes sense. There are working people, white collar workers, business people, all kinds of backgrounds and classes together for a ceremony. It’s important for our country that’s so divided, with the Brexit and all that. At least we have that. I understand now.”

A strange silence

Since the death of the Queen, black dresses London. It is time to mourn. The deceased is still on the front page of the newspapers, on posters all over the city center, in every bus shelter, in people’s thoughts. Even the Quebec flag that flies at the front of the General Delegation, three stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, is at half-mast.

Long faces, deep sighs and a few sobs filled the square in front of the Royal Palace all day. The flowers that were brought in piled up so much that there was not enough room to receive them at the same time as the crowd. The bouquets were passed around so that others could place them in front. A Union Jack black and white floats above the tributes.

A lady, Claire, is moping with sadness at the foot of the palace grounds. She cannot answer any questions: she has lost her voice because of grief. “A loss. Gratitude,” she murmurs with her lips.

The crowd murmurs too, and in several languages. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II ruled 32 different countries. Seventeen decided to become independent during the 70 years of the last Queen’s reign.

Stacey O’Connor is from Australia, but lives in London with her English husband. She too came to lay a wreath of flowers to her late sovereign. “She is on our currency. She is part of our daily life,” she says. And it was good to have a queen, a woman, in a world of leaders led by patriarchy. Now we have a king. Just to say it, it feels weird.”

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Hard to believe news

“Weird” People repeat that word as much as they sigh. Almost everyone here has only lived with Elizabeth II as Queen.

“It’s very hard to believe that she’s really dead. That’s why I came here. Is it true she’s dead?” Chris Imafilon struggles to contain his grief over the death of the woman he calls “a mother.”

“I had the privilege of meeting her every year. She would invite students from the inner cities to London. She would ask each of them what they wanted to be when they grew up. You should have seen the pride of the children when they came back to their schools with their chests puffed out. They would say, “I can be an engineer, it’s true, the queen told me so!”

Amidst these sad faces, the members of the honor guard parade on their horses with their red and black paraphernalia. Their warlike shouts break the silence of reverence. A light rain completes the typically English scene. Media from around the world capture the moment.

An elderly Englishman, also wearing a red military uniform and decorated with medals, watches the procession. Alan Rutter is a resident of Chelsea, a retirement home for military retirees. “His death was not surprising, but it is still a shock. It’s very sad. She was an extraordinary queen. We will never see a queen like that again,” the veteran said. “The queen did a great job for the United Kingdom, but also for Australia, Canada! She held the Commonwealth together. She met ordinary people and made them feel comfortable. Her smile was natural. When she smiled, it was genuine.”

The commemorations of the death of Elizabeth II will continue for ten days.