Accession Council the next formal step in King Charles's journey as sovereign

·4 min read
King Charles arrives at Buckingham Palace on Friday. He will be formally proclaimed as sovereign on Saturday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters - image credit)
King Charles arrives at Buckingham Palace on Friday. He will be formally proclaimed as sovereign on Saturday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters - image credit)

British officials will gather at St. James's Palace on Saturday to formally proclaim King Charles III as the new monarch.

Charles automatically became the King when his mother, Queen Elizabeth, died on Thursday at the age of 96.

But the pending Accession Council is the next formal step in the 73-year-old Charles's nascent journey as sovereign — just as it was for his late mother; his grandfather, King George VI; and also for Queen Victoria.

Unlike those prior occasions, this one will be televised.

Sarah Richardson, the deputy head of the Department of History at the University of Warwick, said the Accession Council process is not particularly known to many Britons, despite their familiarity with the monarchy.

"The wider public understand[s] that when one monarch dies, the next monarch is in post immediately ... but the formal adoption of that monarch by institutions such as Parliament and the Church is less well understood," Richardson told CBC News via email.

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

"I think what is more widely known though is the anxiety faced by the country on the accession of a new monarch and certainly in the past the need to get key individuals to swear oaths of allegiance," she added.

It's also a process that has not unfolded since 1952, when Elizabeth — the only monarch that most Britons have known until now — ascended to the throne upon the death of her father.

In an email, Iain McLean, an emeritus professor of politics at the University of Oxford, said "the whole thing is utterly obscure" for many people.

Two-part process

An Accession Council is typically convened within 24 hours of a monarch's death, according to the U.K. Privy Council Office website.

The Scotsman newspaper reports this particular council is occurring slightly later due to timing of the announcement of the Queen's death.

Carl Recine/Reuters
Carl Recine/Reuters

The gathering is presided over by the Lord President of the Council — in this case Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative cabinet minister, who was among the top contenders to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.

There are two parts to the process.

The first part involves both the formal announcing of the death of the prior monarch and the accession proclamation being read aloud and subsequently signed by a platform party.

The new monarch does not take part in this first part of the process. But various Privy Council members and British officials are present for this portion of the Accession Council, and the privy council office website indicates that High Commissioners and Acting High Commissioners of the Realms — including those from Canada — are invited to attend this first part.

The High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom told CBC News that High Commissioner Ralph Goodale will attend on Saturday.

The second part of the Accession Council's process involves the new monarch and privy councillors alone. Charles will make a personal declaration relating to the death of the previous monarch and will swear an oath to maintain the Church of Scotland.

Following the meeting, there will be the principal proclamation from the balcony overlooking Friary Court at St. James's Palace. Other announcements of the new monarch will later be made across the United Kingdom and in London.

Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based historian and royal commentator, told CBC's Canada Tonight that Saturday's Accession Council will bring "that formal moment of the new King being announced."

The University of Warwick's Richardson said it's "hugely important" that symbolic institutions formally recognize the new monarch.

"Although more ceremonial today than in the past, the monarch is head of state, head of the judiciary, head of the church and so on. That gives them in theory immense power," Richardson wrote via email.

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"We have seen in the past week, that Liz Truss, the elected leader of the largest political party in the U.K. had to be invited to form a government by the Queen," she said, referring to the change in prime ministers that Britain also saw in recent days.

"So it is important that in turn the new monarch gains allegiance from the institutions (and the people within them) that they lead."