It was an honour to be part of the Accession Council welcoming our new King
The long and glorious Elizabethan reign has come to an end. The passing of Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has moved us all, the nation united in collective mourning and also in reflection of her 70 years of dedicated service.
The most impressive aspects of our constitution and history have been on show, our great British heritage and its age-old traditions ushering in a new monarch, and demonstrating how the crown passes seamlessly from one reign to the next.
Perhaps the most special and unique of these traditions is the Accession Council. On the death of the sovereign, Privy Counsellors are summoned to witness the formal proclamation of their passing, and the accession of the successor to the throne. It is the first Privy Council that the new monarch attends, and this usually takes place within 24 hours of the sovereign’s death. As a former Lord President of the Council, I was one of 200 Privy Counsellors summoned to attend, and alongside colleagues, I made my way to St James’s Palace on the morning of Saturday 10th September to participate in this solemn ceremony.
A veil was lifted on the ancient workings of our constitution, with the best of British ceremony on show
Politicians past and present, members of the clergy, the judiciary and the military came together to witness the formal proclamation of the accession of King Charles III to the throne. Part 1 announces the death of the monarch and proclaims the succession of the new sovereign. Part 2 sees the sovereign read a personal declaration before taking the oath to preserve the Church of Scotland. The Proclamation of Accession is read out by the Lord President of the Council, currently Penny Mordaunt, and signed as witnesses by all the attendant Privy Counsellors.
Politics was set aside, and this event gave all of us present a chance to reflect on the passing of our late Majesty and to pledge our support to our new King. For brevity and efficiency, Privy Council meetings are always held standing - this one wasn’t any different!
Surrounded by Heralds, the proclamation was read by Garter King of Arms from the majestic Friary Court balcony at St James’s Palace, with further readings following at the Royal Exchange, the devolved nations and around the country the next day.
As the final shout rang out “three cheers for the King”, all present recognised that this was a day of solemn pageantry when the crown passed from our late Queen to our new King. God Save the King – the new words feeling unfamiliar, yet the anthem sung with fervour and then applause from the crowds all around.
In some ways, the Accession Council was a fusion of our United Kingdom past and future. Individuals from all walks of life were present and this was the first time in history that the ceremony was televised for all to see. A veil was lifted on the ancient workings of our constitution, with the best of British ceremony on show.
Very rarely in life do any of us get to experience something so special and unique. The ceremony, and indeed the period of national mourning that we have lived through, has created a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. It has been a rare moment in our nation – a binding together of what has passed, and what lies ahead in our shared future.
Those of us present will not forget this unique moment nor the life and legacy of her late beloved Majesty. God Save the King.
Andrea Leadsom is the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire.
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