Wednesday, November 29, 2023

King Charles III makes first address to UK parliament

King Charles III makes first address to UK parliament
September 12, 2022 Web Desk

LONDON (AFP) - Charles III on Monday made his first speech to parliament as king since ascending to the throne following Queen Elizabeth II's death, hailing the "vital" traditions of British lawmakers.

The country's new monarch gave his inaugural parliamentary address in front of members of the elected lower House of Commons and the upper chamber House of Lords packed into Westminster Hall.

The oldest part of Britain's centuries-old parliament, it will host the coffin of his late mother from Wednesday evening for four days of official lying-in-state until her state funeral Monday.

"As I stand before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history which surrounds us and which reminds us of the vital parliamentary traditions to which members of both houses dedicate yourselves," Charles said.

"Parliament is the living and breathing instrument of our democracy," he added, noting the queen had set "an example of selfless duty which, with God's help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow."

Charles will next travel to Scotland, where he will join a procession to accompany the queen's coffin along Edinburgh's Royal Mile to St Giles' Cathedral, before a religious service and vigil later Monday.

All our lives 

"I just felt I had to do something. I just wanted to come today," said Steve Crofts, 47, outside St Giles' on Monday.

Many were up early to queue for wristbands that will allow them to file past the closed coffin, guarded by the Royal Company of Archers, from 5:30 pm (1630 GMT).

Sue Stevens, 79, recalled being at school when king George VI died in 1952, resulting in his daughter, Elizabeth, becoming queen aged just 25.

"It's the end of an era," Stevens said. "But having listened to him (Charles) over the last few days, I think he's well prepared for the task."

Britain has been plunged into mourning by the death of its longest-serving monarch, who has been part of the backdrop of national life almost since World War II.

While the government said organisations need not cancel events, everything from strikes to football matches have been cancelled or postponed in honour of the only monarch most British people have ever known.

A National Moment of Reflection involving a minute's silence will be held at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on the eve of the funeral, Prime Minister Liz Truss's spokesman told reporters.

Flowers, cards and candles have been left at royal residences across the country, where crowds have massed to pay tribute to the late queen and hail their new king.

Many were left by tourists and well-wishers from abroad.

"We've known her face all of our lives," said Aurelie Mortet, a 46-year-old Frenchwoman at London's Columbia Road flower maket, which has seen a huge rise in demand.

The queen's funeral is expected to draw unprecedented numbers to London, as well as some 500 world leaders and heads of state, including US President Joe Biden.

Millions more are expected to watch it live on television.

Decades in the planning, the aftermath of the queen's death has been full of the pomp and ceremony that Britain does so well.

Charles and his Queen Consort, Camilla, sat on gold thrones in the 900-year-old Westminster Hall on Monday while the speakers of the two Houses of Parliament offered their condolences.

Constitutional role 

The monarch is a largely ceremonial figurehead in Britain but retains constitutional powers, from officially appointing governments to approving legislation and meeting weekly with prime ministers.

"Parliament is the living and breathing instrument of our democracy," Charles said on Monday in his brief address.

As he takes on what he has called the "heavy responsibilities" of kingship, he will also make his first visits as monarch to Northern Ireland and Wales this week in a show of national unity.

While the emotional scenes in Scotland showed the deep affection for the queen there, her death has also reignited a debate over Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon -- who was to have her first audience with the new king on Monday -- said it was a "sad and poignant moment" to see the coffin leaving Balmoral.

But the pro-independence leader has been pushing nonetheless for a new referendum on the divisive issue.

"I'm not for independence. We've been together for hundreds of years. Why stop now?" said mourner Anne Johnston, 68, from Edinburgh.

She added, however: "No offence to Charles but I don't think he'll ever live up to the queen."

Last respects 

Charles has seen his popularity recover since the death of his former wife Diana in a 1997 car crash. But he has been embroiled in several scandals in recent years.

He takes the throne at a moment of deep anxiety in Britain over the spiralling cost of living and international instability caused by the war in Ukraine.

With republican movements gaining ground from Australia to the Bahamas, the new king also faces a challenge keeping the Commonwealth realms in the royal fold.

Charles hosted his first reception on Sunday for representatives of the 14 former colonies over which he reigns in addition to Britain -- at least for now.

After walking with the queen's coffin to St Giles on Monday, where she will be received with a prayer service, the king and senior royals will mount a vigil by her side at 7:20 pm (1820 GMT).

The coffin will stay in the cathedral for 24 hours "to enable people of Scotland to pay their last respects", a palace official said. The queen's body will be flown to London on Tuesday by Royal Air Force jet to an airfield near London, accompanied by the queen's daughter Princess Anne. It will then be driven to Buckingham Palace.

The following day, royals will follow the coffin, carried atop a gun carriage, to Westminster Hall, where it will lie in state from 5:00 pm (1600 GMT).

Officials have warned that people should expect to wait "many hours" and possibly even to queue overnight to file past the coffin and must go through "airport-style security".

Meanwhile, one previously unanswered question was resolved on Sunday, when it emerged that scandal-hit Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson will look after the queen's two beloved remaining corgis.