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Gun salutes and reflection as UK remembers Queen Elizabeth II

BALLATER, United Kingdom – Ceremonial gun salutes rang out across the UK on Friday to mark the accession of King Charles III, as he paid tribute to his mother Queen Elizabeth II on the first anniversary of her death.

A 41-gun accession salute thundered across London’s Hyde Park, followed by a 62-gun salute from the Tower of London, a historic royal palace on the banks of the River Thames.

Guns were also fired from Edinburgh Castle in the Scottish capital, Cardiff Castle in Wales and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.

Commemorations of the queen’s death were low key, with the king – who is at his sprawling Scottish Highland estate of Balmoral – not expected at any official engagement.

In a short statement, the 74-year-old British head of state recalled the “great affection” for his mother, her life and public service.

“I am deeply grateful, too, for the love and support that has been shown to my wife and myself during this year as we do our utmost to be of service to you all,” he added.

He and wife Camilla attended Crathie Kirk, the late monarch’s place of worship near Balmoral, for private prayers and a moment of reflection.

Church of Scotland minister Kenneth Mackenzie said afterwards that the service was “a simple reflective time”.

“We were able to give thanks for the life of the queen and recognise the poignancy of this day for his family and this community, as well as the nation and Commonwealth,” he added.

‘Sad day’

Charles, dressed in a red tartan kilt, talked to well-wishers outside the church after the event.

“I saw the funeral procession go past last year, it’s a sad day for everyone,” Mr Ross Nichol, a 22-year-old student from nearby Ballater, told AFP.

“She did a lot of good things and she had a standing in the world,” added German tourist Nicole Hoppe.

“We feel a little bit sad and sentimental for her.”

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The queen, who was on the throne for a record-breaking 70 years, died on Sept 8, 2022, at Balmoral aged 96 after a period of declining health.

Flowers were left at the gates of Balmoral, while crowds gathered at Buckingham Palace and floral tributes were also left.

Throughout her reign the queen did not publicly mark her accession, as it was also the anniversary of her own father King George VI’s death in 1952.

‘We all miss you’

Elsewhere, the king’s eldest son and heir, Prince William, and his wife, Catherine, attended a small private service at St David’s Cathedral in west Wales.

The couple earlier posted a message on social media platform X, saying: “Today we remember the extraordinary life and legacy of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth. We all miss you. W & C”.

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William’s estranged younger brother, Prince Harry, was in the UK for a charity event and was spotted on Friday visiting his grandmother’s final resting place at Windsor Castle, west of London.

“She is looking down on all of us tonight, happy we’re together,” he told the event on Thursday evening.

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Elizabeth II’s death was a seismic event in British life. For most Britons alive, the queen was the only monarch and head of state they had ever known.

During the 10-day official mourning period, tens of thousands of people queued for up to 25 hours to file past her flag-shrouded coffin as it lay in state in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament.

Even more packed the streets of London and the route west to Windsor Castle for the state funeral, which was beamed around the world to a television audience of millions.

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One of the enduring images was her two corgi dogs, Muick and Sandy, awaiting her coffin at Windsor.

The late queen’s former daughter-in-law, Sarah, Duchess of York, said on Friday they were “thriving” in her care.

Memorial

The queen was buried in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, Windsor, alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died in 2021, her father and mother and the ashes of her younger sister, Princess Margaret.

Earlier this week, the government announced that a national memorial to the late monarch will be commissioned “in due course”.

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In London on Thursday, there were mixed views about Charles’ first year.

Some felt he had been right not to introduce sweeping reform too early.

“He’s got a hard act to follow but he will I think change things,” Joanne Hughes, 61, told AFP outside Buckingham Palace.

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Others were indifferent about the new king – and the monarchy in general.

“The monarchy is dying,” said nursing student Mimi Jaffer-Clarke.

“If he wants it to not die, then he needs to try to get the younger generation to like him – and we just don’t.” AFP

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UK’s Queen consort Camilla: From palace margins to royal limelight

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