How King Charles and the Royals Are Spending Queen Elizabeth's Accession Day Following Her Death
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty From left: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth in June 2022.
It's been 71 years since Queen Elizabeth II took the throne and started her historic reign — and now, her family is marking the first anniversary of her accession since her death in September.
On Feb. 6, 1952, King George VI was found dead in his bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk, making his eldest daughter, the 25-year-old then-Princess Elizabeth, Great Britain's new monarch. It would take hours for the new sovereign to know about her father's death, as she was in Kenya on a wildlife-watching stop during a royal tour with her husband, Prince Philip.
King Charles III, Queen Camilla and the rest of the royal family will spend the day privately, as there are no scheduled engagements.
During her life, Queen Elizabeth would traditionally spend her Accession Day privately at Sandringham, where King George died and where the royal family gathers each year for Christmas. It was not only the anniversary of her beloved father's death but also the day her life changed forever. But there were also celebratory elements to the anniversary. The bells would ring at Westminster Abbey, where her coronation was held in 1953, and a 21-gun salute would take place to mark the occasion.
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On Monday, a new coronation website was launched, giving information about King Charles and Queen Camilla's coronation on May 6 and surrounding events.
Like Queen Elizabeth's coronation, the ceremony will be held at Westminster Abbey and conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"The Coronation will reflect the monarch's role today and look towards the future while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry," Buckingham Palace said.
On May 6, the King's Procession will start at Buckingham Palace and make its way to Westminster Abbey for the coronation ceremony. Following the service, King Charles and Queen Camilla will be joined by members of the royal family for the larger Coronation Procession back to Buckingham Palace, where they will all appear on the iconic balcony.
The following day, the Coronation Concert, featuring "global music icons and contemporary stars," will be broadcast live from Windsor Castle. Synchronized with the concert, "Lighting up the Nation" will see iconic locations across the U.K. illuminated with projections, lasers and drone displays.
Also on May 7, citizens across the U.K. will gather with neighbors for the Coronation Big Lunch. Originally conceived by the Eden Project, the event is intended to "boost community spirit, reduce loneliness and support charities and good causes." May 8 was announced as a bank holiday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in November. U.K. citizens are invited to participate in the Big Help Out, a volunteering initiative.
Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty King Charles and Queen Camilla
What would be Queen Elizabeth's final Accession Day during her life in 2022 was especially significant, as it marked 70 years on the throne. She became Britain's longest-reigning monarch some years earlier when she surpassed Queen Victoria's 63 year-reign, and she was also the first U.K. sovereign to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. The Platinum Jubilee was celebrated throughout 2022, including a long weekend of events in June including Trooping the Colour and the Platinum Party at the Palace.
The event was celebrated with the release of a new portrait by photographer Chris Jackson of Queen Elizabeth, smiling with one of her famous red boxes, which were delivered to her daily with documents needing her attention. (The red box also made an appearance in one of the first photos of King Charles at work in September.)
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Queen Elizabeth also used her 70th Accession Day to make a major announcement: that she wanted Camilla to be known as Queen Consort when Charles took the throne. In a message, Queen Elizabeth wrote, "When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service."
"Queen Consort" is the traditional title for the wife of a reigning monarch.
"They couldn't wait until Charles was actually King — it had to come from the Queen herself," a royal insider said at the time. "Now was a good time because of the Jubilee — it was almost tailor-made for this timing."
Chris Jackson/Getty Prince Charles, Camilla and Queen Elizabeth
The day after Queen Elizabeth's death on Sept. 8 at age 96, King Charles officially named Camilla as Queen Consort in his first speech as monarch.
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"I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla. In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort," said the King during his speech, which was recorded in the Blue Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace. "I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much."