A smiling King Charles III shook hands with some of the thousands of well-wishers gathered outside Buckingham Palace on Friday as he returned to London following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II.
Shouting “God save the King” and with an impromptu burst of the reworded national anthem, members of the crowd greeted Charles and Queen Consort Camilla after they emerged from their car following a flight from Scotland.
The royal standard was raised for the first time in Charles’s reign, as the new monarch and Camilla inspected bouquets of flowers left on the palace fence by members of the public, before entering their new London home.
The royal couple had been visiting the queen at her Balmoral estate in the Scottish Highlands before her death on Thursday.
Charles was due to hold an audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was only appointed by the queen on Tuesday, before delivering a televised address to the nation at 6pm (midnight Thailand time). On Saturday he will be officially proclaimed king.
Truss offered the nation’s support to Charles as she said he now bore an “awesome responsibility” at the start of two days of special tributes to his mother in parliament.
“Even as he mourns, his sense of duty and service is clear,” she said.
Truss lavished praise on the queen as “one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known”.
“Her legacy will endure through the countless people she met, the global history she witnessed and the lives that she touched,” the premier said.
Charles was also due to meet officials in charge of the arrangements for his mother’s elaborate state funeral, which will take place before she is laid to rest in the King George VI memorial chapel at Windsor Castle.
Church bells tolled at Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and at Windsor, among other places, and Union flags flew at half-mast across the UK.
Gun salutes — one round for every year of the queen’s life — were fired on Friday across Hyde Park in central London and from the Tower of London on the River Thames. (Story continues below)
The Death Gun Salute, as it is formally known, is fired in Hyde Park by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, British Army, to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, in London on Friday. Ninety-six rounds were fired — one for each year of the Queen’s life. (AFP Photo)
In Edinburgh, meanwhile, sadness, drizzle and a strange frisson filled the air as the Scottish capital prepared to receive the coffin of Queen Elizabeth this weekend.
Against a damp wall at Holyroodhouse, the royal palace in Edinburgh, the mass of flowers continued to grow.
Gary Millar, a 45-year-old technician, added a bouquet to the pile that started to build when news broke of the queen’s death.
He stepped back and paused in a silent moment of contemplation.
“She honoured us her whole reign by doing her duty and I think it’s time that the public gave that back a little,” he said, his voice tight with emotion.
In Scotland, led by a government that wants independence from the United Kingdom, the queen is much more popular than the monarchy itself.
For Millar, the late sovereign “held the country together”.
“She was the figurehead of our union of Great Britain. She’s been around all my life,” he continued, praising her “hard work” and “dedication”.
Holyroodhouse is expected to receive Queen Elizabeth’s coffin over the weekend.
Her body will then be carried in a procession along the Royal Mile, the main artery of the Scottish capital, to St Giles Cathedral for a religious service.
The queen’s children are expected to hold a “Vigil of the Princes” while the coffin lies in the cathedral. Members of the public are due to be allowed in later to pay their respects.
The coffin will then be transported by plane to London.