By Seyi Odewale
It was a momentous event at the weekend in London when the world stood still to witness the historic ascension to the throne of the king of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, by His Majesty King Charles III after the demise of his mother, Queen Elizabeth the II two days earlier at her private residence in Balmoral Castle.
Both the fauna and flora in the great land of the English recognised that a momentous event was on. The elements also respected the mortal lordship of the king as they were all in agreement; the dry, humid summer weather of the city of London encouraged thousands of residents to troop out and witness a once-in-a-lifetime event, which was last seen seven decades ago.
Again, perhaps by divine arrangement, most parts of the places where the British sovereign has both political and historical influence had the elements under control to witness the ascension and proclamation of the arguably the most powerful monarch on earth.
The late Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully last Thursday at her private residence in Balmoral Castle barely two days after receiving the new Prime Minister Liz Truss, who paid her an official visit.
On Friday, barely 24 hours after his mother’s departure, a grieved King Charles told the world how deeply sorrowful he was announcing the death of the Queen, his mother.
He said, “I speak to you today with feelings of profound sorrow. Throughout her life, Her Majesty, The Queen– my beloved mother – was an inspiration and example to me and 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.
“Queen Elizabeth’s 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.
“Alongside the personal grief that all my family is feeling, we also share with so many of you in the United Kingdom, in all the countries where the queen was head of state, in the Commonwealth, and across the world, a deep sense of gratitude for the more than seventy years in which my mother, as queen, served the people of so many nations.
“In 1947, on her 21st birthday, she pledged in a broadcast from Cape Town to the Commonwealth to devote her life, whether it be short or long, to the service of her people. That was more than a promise: It was a profound personal commitment that defined her whole life. She made sacrifices for duty. Her dedication and devotion as Sovereign never wavered, through times of change and progress, through times of joy and celebration, and through times of sadness and loss.
“In her life of service, we saw that abiding love of tradition, together with that fearless embrace of progress, which makes us great as nations. The affection, admiration, and respect she inspired became the hallmark of her reign.
“And, as every member of my family can testify, she combined these qualities with warmth, humour, and an unerring ability to always see the best in people. I pay tribute to my mother’s memory, and I honour her life of service. I know that her death brings great sadness to so many of you and I share that sense of loss, beyond measure, with you all.”
Last Saturday’s ceremony was important as the throne must not be left vacant. This perhaps was to corroborate the common saying that nature abhors a vacuum. The accession ceremony is a key constitutional and ceremonial step in introducing the new monarch and is usually convened at St James’s Palace, the official residence of the sovereign, to proclaim the successor.
The council is comprised of privy counsellors, who have advised the monarch since the Norman era. They are now about 670 senior politicians, including Prime Minister Liz Truss. They were all around at Saturday’s event.
Also, present were the lords, spiritual and temporal – bishops of the Church of England, who sit in the House of Lords, including the archbishop of Canterbury, together with the secular peers of the realm.
There was also the lord mayor of London, senior civil servants and high commissioners from the 14 other realms, which have the monarch as their head of state also sits on the council, the lord president of which is currently lawmaker Penny Mordaunt.
All privy counsellors will be invited but not all will be able to attend at short notice.
In 1952, after the death of George VI, 191 members attended Elizabeth’s Accession Council. The Accession Council was divided into two parts:
In a televised event beamed worldwide, the lord president announced the death of the monarch, and the clerk of the council, Richard Tilbrook, read aloud the text of the Accession Proclamation.
A so-called platform party, including royal family members present, the prime minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the earl marshal – Duke of Norfolk Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the premier member of the peerage, who is responsible for organising state ceremonies – signed the proclamation.
Immediately after it was signed, the lord president called for silence and the council dealt with remaining business such as dissemination of the proclamation and directions for the firing of artillery guns at London’s Hyde Park and the Tower of London.
After this, which formed the first part of the proceedings, the proclamation was read from the Proclamation Gallery, a balcony above the Friary Court of St James’s Palace, by David White, the garter king of arms, who is also the senior herald in England and whose ceremonial role fetches him an annual salary of 49 pounds, fixed since the 1830s. He was accompanied by the earl marshal and other officials wearing traditional heraldic clothing.
The proclamation was accompanied by gun salutes and heralds travelled to Mansion House in the City of London where it was read at the Royal Exchange.
Interestingly, the proclamation was read publicly in the other capital cities of the United Kingdom such as Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff, and at other locations.
The second part of the Accession Council was also held and was attended by privy counsellors and began with a declaration of the death of the queen.
The declaration, which was made by a lady went thus: “My lord, it is my sad duty to inform you that her most gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth the II has passed away on Thursday, the 8th of September 2022 at Balmoral Castle.
“I propose that when taken necessary business has been transacted, a deputation consisting of Her Majesty, His Royal Highness, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of York, the Prime Minister, the Clerk of the council and myself shall wait on the king and inform him. The council is assembled. I now call on the clerk of the council to read aloud the text of the proclamation.”
The clerk immediately stepped forward to read the proclamation. He said: “Whereas it pleased the Almighty God to call to his mercy our late sovereign Lady of blessed and glorious memory by whose decease the crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is solely and rightfully come to the Prince Charles Phillips Arthur George.
“We, therefore, the Lords spiritual and temporal of this realm and members of the House of Common together with other late Majesty’s privy council and the representatives of realms and territories and aldermen and citizens of Lord and others do now hereby with one voice and consent of tongue and heart publish, proclaim that the Prince Charles Phillips Arthur George is now by the death of our late sovereign of happy memory become our lawful and rightful liege Lord Charles the III by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and his other realms and territories.