A new reign. After decades of preparations, Prince Charles is now the king of England.
The transition began as soon as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on Thursday, September 8, at age 96.
“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,” Charles, 73, wrote in a statement. “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.”
He continued: “During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.”
The late monarch had been on the British throne since February 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died at age 56. Charles was just 3 when the then 25-year-old royal became queen. He was the first child to witness his mother’s coronation as sovereign in June 1953.
Elizabeth was the longest-reigning British monarch in history, while Charles was the longest-serving heir apparent ever.
The queen kept her feelings about her family relatively private through the years, but she gave a heartfelt speech in celebration of Charles’ 70th birthday in November 2018.
“It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday,” she said at the time. “It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like — to use an analogy I am certain will find favor — planting a tree and being able to watch it grow.”
Elizabeth then applauded her son for his longtime dedication to his role. “Over his 70 years, [Prince] Philip and I have seen Charles become a champion of conservation and the arts, a great charitable leader — a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history — and a wonderful father,” she continued. “Most of all, sustained by his wife, [Duchess] Camilla, he is his own man, passionate and creative. So this toast is to wish a happy birthday to my son, in every respect a duchy original.”
As his mother grew older, Charles stepped up to take on more responsibilities and charted his course for the day he became king. “Charles has made it quite clear that he intends to slim down the monarchy and reduce the number of full-time working members of the family to those in the immediate line of succession,” Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell told Us Weekly in November 2020.
His eldest son, Prince William, is now first in line to the throne, while the 40-year-old Duke of Cambridge’s three children with Duchess Kate — Prince George, 9, Princess Charlotte, 7, and Prince Louis, 4 — occupy the second, third and fourth slots, respectively.
As for Charles’ destiny, a source revealed in November 2020, “This is something he’s dreamed about his entire life — he sees it as his birthright.”
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Scroll through the gallery below to see what will come next for Charles.