King Charles III, the world’s newest monarch, was officially proclaimed sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on Saturday morning in a constitutional ceremony that dates back hundreds of years. Almost 700 members of the current Accession Council, the oldest functioning part of Britain’s government, were called to convene Saturday at St James’s Palace in London, the official residence of the U.K.’s kings and queens for centuries.
The council is comprised of Privy Counsellors, a select group of senior politicians, including new Prime Minister Liz Truss, religious figures from the Church of England, the Lord Mayor of London and a bevy of other top civil servants from across British society and the 14 other “realms” for which the monarch serves as the official head of state.
While King Charles III immediately became the king upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday after a record 70 years on the throne, it was the council’s role to formally acknowledge the passing of one monarch and to then proclaim the new one on behalf of the British government. It is part of Britain’s constitutional process.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the current 670 or so named Privy Counsellors made it to the proceedings in London on Saturday, as some live in far-flung parts of what was once a British empire that spanned the globe. The Privy Council is the oldest functioning part of Britain’s government, dating back almost 1,000 years.
In the first part of the ceremony, British lawmaker Penny Mordaunt, the Lord President of the council, announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II and then clerk of the council, Richard Tilbrook, read out loud a proclamation of accession.
The proclamation was then signed by members of the council.
The proclamation will then be read out loud from the Proclamation Gallery, a balcony of St James’s Palace, by the Garter King of Arms, accompanied by other officials — all wearing traditional clothing. The proclamation will be accompanied by gun salutes and then repeated at other locations in London and then in the capital cities of the United Kingdom’s other home nations, in Edinburgh, Scotland; Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Cardiff, Wales, among other locations.
For the second part of the council, King Charles will join the gathering at St James’s, but most of the other council members do not take part. Only the Privy Counsellors attend as the monarch reads declarations relating to his mother’s death, and then takes an oath vowing to serve the Church of Scotland, of which he is also the formal leader.
The rest of King Charles’ third day on the job will involve a range of formal meetings — or “audiences,” as they’re referred to by Buckingham Palace — with officials including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the prime minister and other members of the cabinet, and then leaders of Britain’s political opposition parties.