King releases poignant tribute to late Queen on first anniversary of her death

Monarch recalls how much ‘she meant to so many of us’ as Palace also releases classic Cecil Beaton image

The portrait of the late Queen in her Garter robes
The portrait of the late Queen in her Garter robes released on the anniversary of her death was taken by Sir Cecil Beaton on October 16, 1968 Credit: Royal Collection Trust/His Majesty King Charles III 2023/PA Wire

The King has paid tribute to Elizabeth II, recalling “all that she meant to so many of us” in a message to mark the first anniversary of her death.

The monarch, 74, also expressed gratitude for the public support shown to both him and the Queen, 76, during the first year of his reign.

His Majesty said: “In marking the first anniversary of Her Late Majesty’s death and my accession, we recall with great affection her long life, devoted service and all she meant to so many of us.

“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.”

The message was signed “Charles R.” 

An audio version was recorded at Balmoral on Thursday morning.

To mark the anniversary, the King chose to release an image of the late monarch in the earlier years of her reign, when she was 42.

The portrait was taken by Sir Cecil Beaton during an official sitting at Buckingham Palace on October 16, 1968.

First shown at the National Portrait Gallery from November 1968 until March 1969, it depicts the young Queen in her Garter robes, wearing the Star of the Order of the Garter and the Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Tiara, made of 15 interlaced diamond circles. Turning to face the camera, a hint of a smile plays on her lips.

Sources said the image was chosen in part because it reflected her sense of fun and the “twinkle in her eye.”

Beaton first photographed Her Late Majesty in 1942 and did so many times afterwards. However, this image was taken on their last sitting together.

The King will spend Friday privately in quiet reflection at Balmoral, where his mother spent her final weeks before her death on September 8, 2022 aged 96.

His siblings, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of York, will also spend the day privately with their own families.

In marking his accession at the place where his mother died, Charles follows in her own footsteps.

The late Queen almost always spent her accession day, Feb 6, at Sandringham, where her father, George VI, died in his sleep in 1952 after suffering from lung cancer.

Prince Harry not expected to stay

The Duke of Sussex, who arrived in London on Thursday to attend the Wellchild Awards for sick children, was not expected to see his father or his brother before flying to Dusseldorf, Germany, for the Invictus Games, which begins on Saturday.

The Prince and Princess of Wales will attend a private service at St Davids Cathedral in Haverfordwest, a church that long held a particular resonance for Elizabeth II.

The couple, who were given their new titles the day after the Queen’s death, have vowed to spend more time in Wales, building trust and respect with local communities.

St Davids is the only cathedral in the UK where, since the reformation, the sovereign has had a special stall in the quire among members of the chapter. The late Queen sat there on four occasions during her reign.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has hailed the late monarch’s wisdom, grace and “sharp wit”.

He said gratitude for her service and “extraordinary life of duty and dedication” continued to grow and that the nation would reflect on “the example she set for us all.”

Mr Sunak said that “on the solemn anniversary” of Elizabeth II’s death “our thoughts are with His Majesty King Charles III and the whole royal family”.

He added: “With the perspective of a year, the scale of Her Late Majesty’s service only seems greater.

“Her devotion to the nations of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth only seems deeper.

“And our gratitude for such an extraordinary life of duty and dedication only continues to grow.”

PM’s tribute

Mr Sunak said he treasured his memories of the occasions he met the late Queen, particularly the private audience he had with her at Buckingham Palace before presenting his first Budget as chancellor.

“I was struck by her wisdom, by her incredible warmth and grace, but also her sharp wit,” he said.

“People across the UK – whether they had the good fortune to meet Her Late Majesty or not – will be reflecting today on what she meant to them and the example she set for us all. We will cherish those memories.”

Mr Sunak said the “sacred” bond between the country and the monarch endured under the King.

“So, while we continue to mourn Her Late Majesty’s passing, we should be proud that this remarkable legacy of service – and this remarkable bond – continues to grow today under the reign of His Majesty The King,” he said.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister, spoke of the late monarch’s “deep fondness” for Scotland.

“It is here that Queen Elizabeth chose to spend her most private family moments each summer and it is within the halls and gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse that Her Majesty welcomed thousands of community leaders, volunteers, artists, activists, faith leaders and essential key workers in recognition of their service to Scotland,” he said.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the late Queen had brought the country together in her life and in death, recalling how thousands of Scots gathered to watch her cortege make its final, poignant, journey from Balmoral to Holyrood Palace, as she had wished.

“Flowers marked the route in Ballater, bagpipes played in Aboyne, farmers lined their tractors on the roadside and thousands stood on the Royal Mile to pay their last respects,” he said.