EXPLANATION: The formal rules surrounding Charles’ accession

LONDON — Charles immediately became king on Thursday after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. He was officially proclaimed King Charles III at a ceremony at St James’s Palace in London on Saturday, and many more formal steps will follow until his coronation, which may not be for months.

A look at the age-old traditions and rules surrounding the accession of a new British monarch:


In Britain, the death of a sovereign and their successor is officially proclaimed by the Accession Council, which consists of a large group of leading politicians and officials.

Traditionally, the council is convened within 24 hours of a monarch’s death for a ceremonial meeting at St. James’s Palace. But the accession ceremony for King Charles III was postponed because the Queen’s death was not announced until early in the evening on Thursday and there was not enough time to get plans in motion for Friday.

The Accession Council is made up of members of the Privy Council – mainly former and current politicians, including all living Prime Ministers, as well as Church of England leaders and senior royals – and other ceremonial leaders, such as the Lord Mayor of London.

The Privy Council advises the monarch and is one of the oldest parts of government. It dates back to the time of the Norman kings when the monarch had a private meeting with a group of advisers, before the modern functions of a government cabinet.

Historically, the entire Privy Council is called to the Accession Council to oversee the proclamation of the new monarch. But only 200 were called up on Saturday as the number of Privy Council members now stands at 700.

The ceremony was broadcast live on television for the first time on Saturday.


Shortly after a new monarch is formally confirmed, the sovereign holds his first Privy Council meeting, makes a personal statement and then signs an oath to uphold the Church of Scotland, according to the Act of Union of 1707.

Afterwards, a heraldic official known as the Garter King of Arms publicly reads the new sovereign’s proclamation from a balcony at St. James’s Palace and salutes are fired around London.

The proclamation will also be read aloud in locations across the UK, including Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – the capitals of the other three countries that make up the UK.

Union flags will be flown full staff for about 24 hours before returning to half staff in mourning for the Queen.

Parliament will then be recalled as soon as possible to allow senior lawmakers to take their oath of allegiance to the new monarch.

The new monarch has yet to take an oath to declare that he is a staunch Protestant and will maintain the Protestant succession later at the state opening of parliament. The oath is imposed by the Declaration of Accession of 1910.


After the initial flurry of formalities, there will be months before the next big event – the coronation of the king. This is to allow for a period of mourning and to give the officials time to organize the ceremony.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953 – some 16 months after her accession on February 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died.

The date for Charlemagne’s coronation is not yet known. It will most likely be held at London’s Westminster Abbey, where coronation ceremonies have taken place for the past 900 years.