(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Britain’s King Charles paid a heatfelt tribute on Friday to his late mother Queen Elizabeth, vowing to serve with “loyalty, respect and love” as she had done for more than seven decades.
In his first address to the nation, Charles thanked the queen for her devotion to her family and to those for whom she was monarch.
Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and a towering presence on the world stage for 70 years, died on Thursday at her home in Scotland aged 96, drawing an outpouring of tributes from at home and around the globe.
“I speak to you today with feelings of profound sorrow,” said Charles, who became king on his mother’s death – head of state of the United Kingdom and 14 other realms including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
“Throughout her life, Her Majesty The Queen – my beloved Mother – was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family, and we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother; for her love, affection, guidance, understanding and example.”
Charles and other members of the royal family had rushed to be at the queen’s side when news of her ailing health emerged. He returned to Buckingham Palace in London on Friday where he was greeted with cheers, applause and a crowd singing “God Save The King” as he made his first public appearance since ascending the throne.
In his televised message, Charles reflected on his mother’s promise she made in 1947, aged 21, to devote her life to the service of her peoples.
“That was more than a promise: it was a profound personal commitment which defined her whole life. She made sacrifices for duty,” he said.
“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.
“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 endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.”
Charles, 73, also said he had made his eldest son William the new Prince of Wales, the title that had been his for decades and one traditionally held by the heir to the throne. William’s wife Kate becomes Princess of Wales, a role last held by the late Princess Diana.
“With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the centre ground where vital help can be given,” he said.
Charles will officially be proclaimed king on Saturday at a meeting of the Accession Council held at St James’s Palace followed by proclamations across the nation.
Britain has declared a period of mourning until the state funeral for Elizabeth, once described by her grandson Harry as “the nation’s grandmother”, which will be held in a little over a week’s time.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he would attend.
An online book of condolence has also been opened.
Thousands gathered at royal palaces to pay their respects, with some shedding tears as they laid flowers.
“She was amazing. She was like everyone’s granny,” said Kay McClement, 55, who came with a friend to leave flowers at Balmoral Castle.
Railway worker Liam Fitzjohn, 27, said he brought his daughter for a moment of history. “She’s all we ever knew,” he said.
There were gun salutes at London’s Hyde Park and at the Tower of London, and the bells at Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s as well as the Sebastopol Bell at Windsor Castle, captured during the 19th Century Crimean War, tolled.
Regular business in parliament was replaced with a special session for lawmakers to pay tribute to the queen. Parliament will also convene on Saturday, something it rarely does, to approve a message of condolence to the king.
“Since last night’s shocking news, we have witnessed the most heartfelt outpouring of grief at the loss of her late majesty, the queen,” Prime Minister Liz Truss told lawmakers, who held a minute’s silence at the start of proceedings.
“She was the rock on which modern Britain was built,” said Truss, who Elizabeth appointed just on Tuesday in her last public duty – the 15th premier of her long reign.
Bereft of its symbol of continuity and resilience, Britain begins its new era with a new king and new prime minister in grave economic crisis and following years of political division.
Long-running industrial action sparked by surging inflation was cancelled during the period of mourning. The Bank of England said it would delay its monthly meeting to set interest rates by one week.
The queen had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace had called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements. Her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, died in April last year.
Condolences poured in from leaders around the world. From the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the European Commission in Brussels flags were flown at half-mast.
“To you, she was your queen. To us, she was the queen. To us all she (will) be with us forever,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
Elizabeth, who was also the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was just 25 and oversaw a seismic change in the social, political and economic structure of her nation.
She won praise for guiding the monarchy into the 21st Century and modernising it in the process, despite intense media scrutiny and the often highly public travails of her family.
Charles, who polls indicate is less popular than his mother, now has the task of securing the institution’s future.
The king has been known during his long years as heir to the throne for his campaigning over the environment and other issues, which has sometimes led to criticism for meddling.
He said his life would now change.
“It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply. But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others,” he said.
He concluded with a message directly to his late mother.
“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,” Charles 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’.”