LONDON (AP) — King Charles III surprised cheering fans who began gathering outside Buckingham Palace on Friday, a day before his coronation, as the final touches were made ahead of an occasion London won’t had not celebrated for 70 years.
People in the crowd shouted his name as Charles got out of a chauffeured Bentley dressed in a blue suit. One person could be heard shouting “God save the King” as the British monarch approached the crowd lined up behind a barricade.
Charles thanked the well-wishers for coming, shaking hands as he moved slowly along the line.
Theresa Iredale, wearing a plastic crown, said she was shaking as the King approached her after calling out her name.
“I saw his hand come to mine and I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m shaking hands with the king,'” she said.
Prince William, heir to the throne, and his wife, Kate, also waved to the public on the walk, talking to fans across the mall, posing for selfies and chatting.
The Royal Family stopped by after a lunch following the final rehearsal for Charles’ coronation service on Saturday morning at Westminster Abbey.
Charles automatically ascended the throne when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died last year. The religious coronation ceremony represents his official coronation.
The celebration took months to prepare, choreographed in great detail and includes a huge security operation.
Beyond the massive planning, Charles is trying to stay relevant as support for the monarchy has waned, especially among a younger generation who care less about their traditions. Its crowning glory comes as some question the significant expenditure of public funds – with no estimate yet provided – during a cost of living crisis that has left many Britons struggling.
On Thursday, William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, took an underground train and visited a pub in Soho as part of the preparations for the coronation.
Crowds outside the palace have been building for several days, with visitors from around the world gathering to witness history as the last monarch is crowned in a tradition that dates back more than 1,000 years.
Fans of the royal family were dressed in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, waving flags, wearing full outfits made of the distinctive design and a man had it painted on his face.
Many of those gathered had already camped or planned to stay overnight in hopes of a prime perch for Saturday’s procession and perhaps a view of the newly crowned monarch and Queen Camilla, his wife, waving from the balcony of the palace after returning from the ceremony.
Those who expected only a fleeting glimpse of the king were richly rewarded to meet him in person.
“Absolutely amazing, just surreal,” said Gillian Holmes.
“My daughter said her legs were shaking, she was in shock,” Holmes said. “I never dreamed that I would meet the king. I can not believe.
Throughout the day, rail travelers across the UK were greeted with a recorded message from the King as they boarded the trains wishing them and their families ‘a wonderful weekend of coronation”.
The message ended with Charles providing the familiar warning passengers receive before boarding or leaving subways and trains: “And remember, please keep clear.”
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