‘Her loss will be deeply felt’: Charles mourns his mother’s death

The new King Charles III has paid tribute to his mother the Queen in a statement just hours after her death on Thursday.

“The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the statement from Buckingham Palace read.

“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms, and the commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held.”

Charles, 73, officially became king the moment his mother died at Balmoral Castle, although his formal coronation may still be weeks away.

Charles was at Balmoral when the Queen died. He had dashed there as her health worsened on Thursday (British time).

He was joined by his siblings Princess Anne, and Princes Edward and Andrew. Prince William, now heir to the throne, was also there, along with his brother Prince Harry.

Charles’ wife Camilla – the new Queen Consort – and Edward’s wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, were also in Scotland.

The Queen’s death followed that of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip. He died at age 99 in June 2021.

Shortly after the Queen’s death, it was announced that her son would be known as King Charles III, in the first decision of his new reign. He could have chosen any of his four given names – Charles Philip Arthur George.

More changes are likely too, under the new monarch. Although he is heir to the throne, Prince William will not automatically become Prince of Wales.

He does immediately inherit one of his father’s other titles, Duke of Cornwall. His wife Kate Middleton will be known as the Duchess of Cornwall.

There will also be a new title for Charles’ wife, whose full title will be Queen Consort – consort is the term used for the spouse of the monarch.

When Charles’s first wife, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, Camilla was a divisive figure in Britain – seen as someone who could never marry the Prince of Wales, let alone become queen.

But any lingering doubts about Camilla’s future status were finally dispelled on the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne, in February. She gave her blessing to Camilla taking the title Queen Consort after her death, saying it was her “sincere wish” that she do so.

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Charles and Camilla, the new Queen Consort. Photo: Getty

Long live the King

From young “Pommy bastard” to King of Australia, Charles’s roller-coaster journey has taken so long that many antipodeans wondered if it would ever come to pass.

If Charles replicates the life span of his mother, he will likely rule for the next two decades.

He has never enjoyed the popularity levels of the Queen, but generally seems to have been liked well enough, ever since Aussies got to know him first-hand in 1966 as a painfully shy teenager attending Geelong Grammar’s elite but tough “finishing school” Timbertop.

“I have gone through my fair share of being called a Pommy bastard, I can assure you of that,” he recalled of his student days to roars of laughter in a 2011 speech in London.

“But look what it has done for me. By God, it was good for the character. If you want to develop character, go to Australia.”

Charles’s character had been called into question several times during the intervening years, never more so than during the painful break-up then divorce from his first wife, Diana, and her death a year later.

Charles certainly has a deep personal knowledge of Australia, having made 16 visits – the same as his mother though six fewer than his father, the late Duke of Edinburgh.

The last time was with Camilla in 2018 to open the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

The first time Charles visited Australia in an official capacity on his own – albeit with a valet, equerry and Special Branch police superintendent – was to represent the Queen at the funeral of drowned prime minister Harold Holt in 1967.

His low-key visits in the 1970s were as a bachelor prince, and one bikini-clad girl famously raced out from the surf at a Perth beach to give him a kiss on the cheek.

The best thing to happen for his profile, at least initially, was his first marriage. On their first Australian visit together in 1983, Charles and Diana brought their baby William, now first in line to the throne, in defiance of the convention that an heir and his successor should not travel together.

They were a smash hit with the public, drawing rock-star crowds wherever they went, including an estimated 200,000 in Melbourne’s Bourke St Mall. “Dianamania” was born.

When they performed encores in 1985 and 1988, Australia’s bicentenary year, much the same thing happened, leading to reports that Charles was miffed at the way his glamorous wife dominated the media attention.

In his 1992 biography of Diana, Andrew Morton said this drove a wedge between them: “The crowds complained when Prince Charles went over to their side of the street during a walkabout. In public, Charles accepted the revised status quo with good grace; in private he blamed Diana.”

If Charles’s star rose with Diana, so did it fall with their separation in 1992 and their divorce four years later. The tabloids had a field day reporting extramarital affairs on both sides. Diana, referring to Camilla Parker-Bowles, told BBC television: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

In 1994 a troubled 23-year-old man was arrested after firing a starter pistol at the prince as he prepared to hand out Australia Day awards at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Then NSW Premier John Fahey distinguished himself by wrestling the attacker to the ground. Charles never forgot, praising Mr Fahey’s selflessness and valour in a letter that was read out at his funeral in 2020. “I was as fortunate to have him on my side that day as the people of NSW always were to have him on theirs,” the prince wrote.

Charles returned in 2005, shortly before his wedding to Camilla; seven years later they came as a royal couple to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee on a six-day visit which, the press reported, cost Australian taxpayers $437,000.

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Diana and Charles meet an adoring crowd in Adelaide in 1983. Photo: AAP

What happens next

Charles will be officially proclaimed king sometime in the next 24 hours.

He and Camilla will remain at Balmoral until later on Thursday (local time), returning to London on Friday.

Ahead of that, the official proclamation will come at a solemn ceremony at St James’s Palace in London, in front of a ceremonial body known as the Accession Council. Charles is unlikely to attend.

The council is made up of members of the Privy Council – a group of senior MPs, past and present, and peers – as well as some senior civil servants, Commonwealth high commissioners, and the Lord Mayor of London.

The Privy Council has more than 700 members, as diverse as former prime ministers of distant Commonwealth nations. All are entitled to attend in theory, but given the short notice, few are likely.

At the last Accession Council in 1952, on the death of the Queen’s father George VI, there were about 200 people.

The Queen’s death will be announced by the Lord President of the Privy Council after the meeting, and a proclamation will be read out. It is then signed by senior figures, including the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Lord Chancellor.

Charles will have his first audience with Ms Truss as soon as possible. He will also meet the Earl Marshal – the Duke of Norfolk – who is in charge of the accession and the Queen’s funeral, to approve the carefully choreographed schedule for coming days.

Sometime in the next couple of days, Charles will make a televised address to Britons. It will be prerecorded, and he will pay tribute to the Queen and pledge his duty to his service as the new sovereign.

The new King will also hold his first Privy Council, accompanied by Camilla, and William who are also Privy Counsellors, and make his personal declaration and oath.

-with agencies

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