The first full day of the reign of King Charles III has begun, with the new monarch travelling to London to meet the prime minister and prepare for a national address on Friday evening.
After staying at Balmoral overnight, the King will travel with Camilla, now Queen Consort, to the capital.
Charles was in Balmoral when Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had died peacefully there on Thursday afternoon at the age of 96.
For the King, there will be very little time for private mourning. Once in London he is expected to meet the Earl Marshal, currently Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, to approve the carefully choreographed plans for the coming days and weeks.
The King, 73, was expected on Friday to pre-record a televised address to the nation, which will be broadcast early the same evening.
He has declared that a period of official royal mourning will be observed from Friday lasting until seven days after the Queen’s state funeral. Royal mourning is observed by members of the royal family, as well as staff in the royal households, and troops on ceremonial duties.
Liz Truss, in only her fourth day as prime minister, will be invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the new monarch on Friday.
She will also be among senior ministers and politicians expected to attend a public service of prayer and reflection at St Paul’s Cathedral in central London at 6pm. The service will be broadcast on the BBC and will include audio of the King’s televised address to the nation if it coincides with the service.
Truss will need to confirm the length of national mourning, which is likely to be a period of about 12 days, ending the day after the funeral.
The Queen’s state funeral was expected to be on Monday 19 September, though this has not been officially confirmed. The government was also anticipated to make it a public holiday.
Bells will toll at St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle at midday on Friday – and churches across the country are likely to follow suit.
At the same time, MPs and peers in the Houses of Parliament will begin sessions paying tribute to the Queen. Truss is expected to lead tributes in the Commons, which were scheduled to continue until 10pm.
At 1pm, a gun salute of 96 rounds, one for every year of the Queen’s life, will be fired in Hyde Park and at other official gun stations.
The public was gathering outside royal buildings early on Friday morning. At Buckingham Palace, mourners, many dressed in black, congregated beside hundreds of colourful bouquets and messages that had been left overnight and early in the morning. A large union flag in tones of black and grey has been pinned to the right flank of the gates, while police officers kept a crowd back from the main gates further to the left.
Dedicated sites for floral tributes from the public have been set up in Green Park and Hyde Park near Buckingham Palace in London, as well as at Cambridge Gate in Windsor.
Messages of thanks for the Queen and condolences to her family were also left among the floral tributes from the public at the gates of Balmoral Castle. One said: “Thank you Queen Elizabeth II for your service to our nation.”
Another card said: “Thank you for your dedication, service and reign. You have been a source of inspiration and a calming figure through my life.”
Because the announcement of the Queen’s death came late in the day on Thursday, at 6.30pm, Friday was understood to be the first day of the carefully choreographed fortnight of activities to mark her passing.
The situation means that under the complex plans, codenamed London Bridge, Friday was considered D-Day or D+0.
King Charles will be formally announced as the new sovereign on Saturday when the accession council meets at St James’s Palace. This is traditionally at 10am and is read in the open air from the Friary Court balcony by the Garter King of Arms.
There will also be a rare Saturday sitting of parliament, with senior MPs taking an oath of allegiance to the King from 2pm. Condolences are then expected to continue again until 10pm.
The session will end with a “formal humble address” to the King, “expressing the deep sympathy of the house”, according to a House of Commons statement.
Every MP will have the option of taking an oath to the King but are not obliged to.
What happens today
• The King and Queen to return to London: Charles and Camilla stayed at Balmoral overnight on Thursday, and will return to London on Friday.
• 12pm: Church bells expected to ring across the country in commemoration of the Queen.
• 12pm: Tributes to the Queen will be paid by MPs in the House of Commons, led by the prime minister, Liz Truss, and the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Hoyle.
• 1pm: Gun salutes – one round for every year of the Queen’s life – will be fired in London’s Hyde Park and at other stations.
• 6pm: The King will make a televised address to the nation, which he is due to pre-record. He will pay tribute to the Queen and pledge his duty to his service as the new sovereign.
• 6pm: Service at St Paul’s Cathedral – Members of the public, the prime minister and other senior members of the government will attend a public service of remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral in central London.
• Court mourning: A period of royal mourning for members of the royal family and royal households will be observed until seven days after the Queen’s funeral, the date of which is to be confirmed by Buckingham Palace.
• National mourning: The government will confirm the length of national mourning, which is likely to be about 12 days, from now up to the day after the Queen’s funeral. They will also announce that the funeral day will be a public holiday in the form of a Day of National Mourning.