As Queen Elizabeth II left her beloved Balmoral for a final time, thousands of well-wishers greeted the new King as he arrived at Buckingham Palace.
Crowds lined the Mall cheering and waving as the King was driven in his State Rolls-Royce from Clarence House through the gates of the palace, with the Queen Consort arriving shortly afterwards.
Proclamations declaring the reign of King Charles III, first proclaimed at St James’s Palace on Saturday, were read out aloud at ceremonies in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and across the realms.
Meanwhile, the King was receiving the Commonwealth secretary general, Patricia Scotland, and then attending a reception for high commissioners in the Bow Room at Buckingham Palace.
On Monday, he and the Queen Consort attend the Palace of Westminster to receive addresses from both Houses of Parliament following the Queen’s death. The Lord Speaker and the Speaker of the House of Commons will present an address to His Majesty on behalf of their respective Houses in Westminster Hall. The King will then reply to the addresses.
Despite his grief, he has been keen to meet the public, shaking hands and accepting flowers from the crowds.
During the last few days, the nation has had its first glimpse of Charles as King; a taste of the measure of the man who now must carry out “the heavy task that has been laid upon me”.
He will have known how crucial those first impressions will be in setting the tone for his reign. He will have laboured over every line in his first King’s address, and proclamation declaration.
They are not words the like of which we would have expected this more formal mother to have uttered in public. They were deeply emotional, highly personal, extremely considered, extraordinarily diplomatic.
From his borrowing from Shakespeare’s Horatio on Hamlet’s death, bidding his mother “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”, to his pride in the newly created Prince and Princess of Wales, to his “love for Harry and Meghan”, this was the King as son and father.
His message as head of state was equally clear: to “endeavour to serve you with loyalty, love and respect”. And for those concerned the meddling prince could be a controversial King, a pledge to “uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation”, and an acknowledgment his charity work will be passed to “the trusting hands of others”.
As his former press secretary Julian Payne put it: “For him, ‘moving up one’ will be a perfectly natural transition. From the campaigning prince to the convening King – to be consulted, to advise and to warn, just as his mother did before him.”
Certainly, that seems to be his intention, from what he has said so far, though whether it will be borne out in reality remains to be seen.
Right at this moment, though, the King is forced to juggle between performing all the necessary state duties required of him with the pageantry of proclamations and the role of leading the national mourning at a time of profound personal sorrow. The Queen’s death, he told the prime minister, Liz Truss, was a “moment I’ve been dreading”.
He is now head of state of a nation where many people are “navigating their way around the raw and ragged edges of grief”, as the archbishop of Canterbury put it in his Sunday sermon at Canterbury Cathedral.
The former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown believes Charles III will usher in a more informal, Scandinavian -style monarchy. “It’s going to be more like a Scandinavian monarchy in the future, but not in a bad way – more informal,” he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme. “He stopped as he entered Buckingham Palace and talked to people in the crowd, and that was a signal that he was sending that he wanted people to feel that he was approachable.”
It was not, Payne wrote in the Sunday Times, as case of “the role he has been ‘waiting for” all his life, “rather the job he was ready to do when the time came”.
He is, of course, well-prepared for what lies ahead. He has served “probably the longest apprenticeship in history,” the former Tory prime minister David Cameron told Kuenssberg, adding he was a “superb diplomat” and predicting he will prove a “very worthy successor” when it comes to supporting the British government abroad.
Tony Blair, writing in the Sunday Times, said: “I feel for King Charles at this moment of heavy responsibility. But I also believe in him.
“Reinforced by his mother’s example, his attachment to duty is clear. He is an intelligent, caring and good man. His sense of service to his people and his love for them will be as profound as hers.
“Do not imagine for an instant that in the long years past he has not watched, absorbed and thought about what it means to be King. He is well prepared and, I have no doubt, resilient for the task ahead.”