King Charles III, who spent much of his 73 years preparing for the role, met with the prime minister and addressed a nation grieving the only British monarch most of the world had known. He takes the throne in an era of uncertainty for both his country and the monarchy itself.
As the country began a 10-day mourning period, people around the globe gathered at British embassies to pay homage to the queen, who died Thursday in Balmoral Castle in Scotland. A 96-gun salute was planned in London — one for each year of Queen Elizabeth's long life. In Britain and across its former colonies, the widespread admiration for Elizabeth herself was occasionally mixed with scorn for the institution and the imperial history she represented.
On the king's first full day of duties Friday, he left Balmoral en route to London, where he met Prime Minister Liz Truss, appointed just this week. He then delivered a speech to the nation at a time when many Britons are preoccupied with an energy crisis, the soaring cost of living, the war in Ukraine and the fallout from Brexit.
"Queen Elizabeth's was a life well lived, a promise with destiny kept," Charles said. "That promise of lifelong service I renew to all today."
He continued to praise his mom, who helped prepare him to become king.
"And to my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you," Charles said. "Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years."
Hundreds of people arrived through the night to leave flowers outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, the monarch's London home, or simply to pause and reflect.
On Friday, Truss and other senior ministers are expected to attend a remembrance service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Charles, who became the monarch immediately upon his mother's death, will then be formally proclaimed king at a special ceremony Saturday.
After a vigil in Edinburgh, the queen’s coffin will be brought to London, and she will lie in state for several days before her funeral in Westminster Abbey.
As the second Elizabethan Age came to a close Thursday, the BBC played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” over a portrait of the monarch in full regalia as her death was announced. The flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff. And in the one of first of many shifts to come, the anthem played Friday was “God Save the King.”
The impact of Elizabeth's loss will be unpredictable for Britain. She helped stabilize and modernize the monarchy across decades of enormous social change, but its relevance in the 21st century has often been called into question. The public’s abiding affection for the queen had helped sustain support for the monarchy during the family scandals, but Charles is nowhere near as popular.
“Charles can never replace her, you know, and that makes sense," said 31-year-old Londoner Mariam Sherwani.