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Inside the secretive ancient ceremony that saw Charles proclaimed King

CHARLES was yesterday formally proclaimed as King in a centuries-old ceremony — which showed just how long his mother had reigned.

The Accession Council performed the ritual but no one who attended its last meeting in 1952 to place the Queen on the throne is alive today.

Charles is proclaimed King at the historic gathering

Charles is proclaimed King at the historic gatheringCredit: AP
From left: former PMs Gordon Brown, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Theresa May and Sir John Major at the ceremony yesterday

From left: former PMs Gordon Brown, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Theresa May and Sir John Major at the ceremony yesterdayCredit: Eroteme
PM Liz Truss signs the proclamation as Prince William and Camilla, the Queen Consort, look on

PM Liz Truss signs the proclamation as Prince William and Camilla, the Queen Consort, look onCredit: Sky News

The ceremony has been shrouded in secrecy for more than 400 years.

But the pomp was laid bare in fascinating detail on live TV.

The Accession Council was first formed in 1603, when Elizabeth I died without a child.

It has met just 21 times since — and always in private — to proclaim formally a new sovereign.

Seventy years ago the privy councillors — the most senior advisers to the monarch — included only what were termed “Principal Gentlemen of Quality”. No women were among them.

Yesterday, all six of the former prime ministers who are still alive were joined by archbishops, lords of the realm and scores of other high-ranking dignitaries.

They assembled within the ­Picture Gallery at St James’s Palace — as the sombre ceremony began on the dot of 10am before finishing in the Throne Room.

Moments after members cried “God Save the King”, His Majesty signed the official oath Charles R from a silver inkpot touchingly gifted to him by his sons, Princes William and Harry.

TV historian Professor Kate Williams said: “We were given a front row seat on history.

“These may seem like archaic formalities but they are extremely important. And to see it take place for the very first time, it’s something quite special.

“What a historic moment. No one has ever seen this before — unless they were actually in the room.

“This was a meeting of different ages — the ancient and the modern.

“The archaic words of the ­proclamation were heard and then transmitted on rolling news channels and across social media.”

Traditionally, all members of the Privy Council are summoned to the accession ceremony.

But their numbers swelled from 175 to more than 700 during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Following a review, a letter was sent to all members in early 2022 informing them that attendance had been significantly scaled back — and that their presence was far from guaranteed.

Only 200 were invited, with priority given to current Cabinet ministers, former PMs and senior judges, as well as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Others had to enter a ballot for one of the remaining 50 seats.

Ex-PMs Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major took centre stage, standing side by side in the front row.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was also among the dignitaries — but his hard left republican predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was invited but failed to attend.

The newly appointed Business Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, was seen leaving the event wearing a top hat.

Those present watched intently as the Queen Consort and then Prince William followed Liz Truss into the Picture Gallery.

Penny Mordaunt, appointed Leader of the House of Commons when Ms Truss became PM only last week, also inherited the role of Lord President of the Council.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONUNDRUM

However, owing to her failing health, the Queen was unable to formalise the appointment at the privy council — thereby creating a constitutional conundrum.

As a result, Miss Mordaunt began the meeting as acting Lord President.

In line with tradition she opened the meeting with the words: “My Lords, it is my sad duty to inform you that her most gracious Queen Elizabeth II has passed away on Thursday, September 8, 2022, at Balmoral Castle.”

Prince William and the Queen Consort watched on a few feet away as the meeting progressed, as tradition dictates, initially without the King.

They were joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of York, the Prime Minister, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshal.

Miss Mordaunt handed over to the clerk who read the proclamation aloud.

During the 40-minute ceremony the King pledged to be “defender of the faith” and acknowledge “all faith”.

Appearing at the balcony above Friary Court in St James’s Palace, the Garter Principal King of Arms, David White, shouted out the 197-word proclamation.

He finished with a shout of “God Save the King”. It was echoed by gathered royals, including the Duke of Kent, 86, along with the household staff and public, as the state trumpeters sounded the royal salute.

Applause and cheers broke out outside St James’s Palace before a crowd of thousands sang the chorus of the National Anthem and gave three cheers for the new monarch.

VIP treat in heat

OUTSIDE it was cold and threatening rain. But it was stiflingly hot inside the St James’s Palace Throne Room.

Six former PM, awestruck politicians, archbishops and aristocrats jockeyed for position to see Charles III proclaimed king.

They were the lucky 200 privy councillors — whittled down from 700 — to be in the room.

One of those present, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, said: “It is remarkable to be part of history. Some may think it is archaic, all this ritual and ceremony.

“There are a lot of important people in that room but for that morning they were not important. All of us were just swearing allegiance to the King.”

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey wept when Charles III was proclaimed King.

He said: “You could hear a pin drop. There was such a sense of history.

“I thought of my own family, my grandfather who fought in the war, and what the Royal Family meant to them.

Former Tory minister Theresa Villiers added: “It was one of the greatest privileges of my life. But I was worried someone was going to keel over in the hot room — possibly me.”

William signs the proclamation

William signs the proclamationCredit: AP
Penny Mordaunt at the table

Penny Mordaunt at the tableCredit: PA
Jacob Rees-Mogg was seen leaving the event wearing a top hat

Jacob Rees-Mogg was seen leaving the event wearing a top hatCredit: Reuters