King Charles III said Friday his mother Queen Elizabeth’s 96 years demonstrated “a life well lived, a promise with destiny kept,” and pledged in his first speech as king to serve his people as she did.
The 73-year-old new monarch, whose address was broadcast nearly 24 hours after his mother’s death was announced, also named his son and heir, Prince William, as Prince of Wales, a title usually held by the male heir to the throne, as well as his successor as the Duke of Cornwall, holding responsibilities “which I have undertaken for more than five decades.”
The king said that William’s wife Catherine, currently the Duchess of Cambridge, will become Princess of Wales, a title previously held by Charles’ first wife, Princess Diana, who died in a 1997 car crash, roughly one year after their divorce.
But the monarch signaled no new role for his younger son and American-born daughter-in-law, saying simply, “I express my love to [Prince] Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
The bulk of Charles’ nine-minute address, recorded at Buckingham Palace after his return from Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where he and Queen Consort Camilla were at Elizabeth’s bedside, centered on the woman he called “my darling mama,” whose 70-year reign made him the longest-serving heir in British history.
“Throughout her life, Her Majesty the Queen, my beloved mother, was an inspiration, an example to me, and to all my family,” the king, wearing a black suit, white shirt and black striped tie, said. “And we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother for her love, affection, guidance, understanding and example.”
The monarch observed, “When the queen came to the throne, Britain, and the world was still coping with the privations and aftermath of the Second World War, and still living by the conventions of earlier times. In the course of the last 70 years, we have seen our society become one of many cultures and many faiths.”
Charles said he understood “the role and duties of the monarchy also remain, as does the sovereign’s particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England,” where he will now serve as “supreme governor.” Charles will also inherit the title of Defender of the Faith, a role he once questioned in a television interview.
Reflecting on the transformation that took place Thursday afternoon, Charles said, “My life will of course change. As I take up my new responsibilities, it will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities at issues for which I care so deeply. But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others.” Among the causes and charities which Charles has championed over the years include the environment, sustainability education and architecture.
He urged his hearers to “remember and draw strength from the light” of the late queen’s example. He said he was grateful for the expressions of sympathy and support, noting “they mean more to me than I can ever possibly express.”
Concluding the first initial remarks from a king since his grandfather George VI’s famous 1936 radio address, Charles spoke to the woman he now follows as monarch.
“To my darling mama,” he said, in a voice freighted with emotion, “as you begin your last, great journey to join my dear late papa, I want simply to say this: Thank you. 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.”