Charles III pays emotional tribute to his ‘darling mama’ Queen Elizabeth in first speech as king

People around the world continue to mourn Queen Elizabeth II, the iconic monarch who died yesterday at the age of 96, ending a historic 70-year reign as the UK’s queen.

Nowhere is that grief felt more than within the royal family.

Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren all rushed to Balmoral to be by her side as her health declined yesterday, and are now in mourning.

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And for her eldest son, Charles, the Queen’s death was certainly a moment of complex emotions: as heir to the throne, he immediately became King upon her death, and will be henceforth known as King Charles III.

In the days ahead, King Charles, 73, will both mourn for his late mother and transition into a role he has prepared for his entire life, the first new British monarch in 70 years.

Charles’ first major test came this afternoon, as he delivered his first official address as king, in a speech that both mourned the late Queen Elizabeth and reassured the nation for the transition ahead.

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First speech as King
In the prerecorded speech, King Charles expressed “feelings of profound sorrow” at the passing of his mother.

“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,” he said.

“Queen Elizabeth was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept and she is mourned most deeply in her passing. That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.”

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He addressed the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, saying he shared a “deep sense of gratitude” with the nations where the Queen served as head of state.

In the speech, King Charles praised his mother’s 70-year reign on the throne, describing a “life of service” that combined an “abiding love of tradition” with a “fearless embrace of progress.” He described how the Queen oversaw decades of great societal change, from a world recovering from World War II to a society that was “one of many cultures and many faiths.”

Queen Elizabeth II of England (Getty Images)
‘I shall endeavor to serve you’
In addition to paying tribute to the late Queen, King Charles III also used the speech to reassure the nation that he would follow in his mother’s footsteps as a devoted public servant to the people of the UK.

“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,” he said.

“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 endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.”

Expresses ‘love’ for Harry and Meghan
In his speech, King Charles also addressed the change in standing to other members of the royal family. His son, Prince William, is now heir to the throne, and inherits Charles’ long-held titles as Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the King also took a moment to express love for his other son, Prince Harry, and Harry’s wife Meghan Markle.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been two of the most controversial figures in the royal family in recent years. In 2020, the couple stepped away from royal duties and moved to the United States.

The following year, they sat down for a highly-publicized interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan said she had suicidal thoughts and accused the family of making insensitive comments about the skin color of her baby.

This has caused a rift in the royal family in recent years, but King Charles appeared to voice his support for the couple’s decisions.

“I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas,” the King said.

KING’S LYNN, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 25: Prince Charles; Prince of Wales Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King’s Lynn, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
‘May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’
The end of the speech was the most emotional for the new king, as he took a moment to personally mourn his mother.

“On behalf of all my family, I can only offer the most sincere and heartfelt thanks for your condolences and support. They mean more to me than I can ever possibly express,” Charles said.

“And 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. 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.’”

Beginning of a new era
For most people alive today, Queen Elizabeth has been the only UK monarch they’ve ever known. She reigned for 70 years, longer than any British ruler in history, and at 96 was also the oldest ever.

The weeks, months and years ahead will be a time of transition in the UK that hasn’t been experienced in the modern era, and will take some getting used to. Coins, dollars and stamps that have long had the face of Queen Elizabeth will soon be adorned with King Charles III, as is tradition.

Even the national anthem will change: after decades of “God Save the Queen,” the lyrics will revert back to “God Save the King.”

And Charles, throughout his decades in the public spotlight, has not enjoyed the same goodwill afforded to his mother.

Scrutinized by the press since his youth, Charles’ legacy as a public figure has been largely tied to his ill-fated marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Their relationship received widespread media attention and was hailed by the public as a “storybook romance,” but that image quickly fell apart as their marriage deteriorated, and stories of mutual infidelity became a fixture of the tabloids.

SOUTH KOREA – NOVEMBER 03: Prince Charles And Princess Diana On Their Last Official Trip Together – A Visit To The Republic Of Korea (south Korea).they Are Attending A Presidential Banquet At The Blue House In Seoul (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
They became legally separated in 1992 and officially divorced in 1996, creating a crisis for the royal family. While Diana enjoyed celebrity status and positive attention for her charity work, much of the public turned against Charles. He married his longtime companion Camilla in 2005.

A 2019 poll reflected his mixed popularity with the British public, finding that 46% of Britons wanted him to abdicate instead of becoming king.

Charles will also face the challenge of modernizing the monarchy and maintaining the public image of the royal family, members of whom always prone to scandals and tabloid headlines.

But Charles has also prepared for this job his entire life. His 70 years as heir to the throne are the longest of anyone in UK history.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – September 09: King Charles III and The Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, Queen consort of the United Kingdom view flowers and messages outside Buckingham Palace after Queen Elizabeth died in London, United Kingdom on September 09 , 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
And while Charles’ public image was mixed when he was Prince of Wales, he seems to be enjoying a boost of support as the nation mourns Queen Elizabeth. He received positive reviews from the media for his speech this afternoon, and before his speech received some words of support from the public.

People gathered at Buckingham Palace as King Charles and Camilla arrived back in London, and reportedly sang “God Save the King.”