Newly confirmed British Prime Minister Liz Truss revealed Thursday how Queen Elizabeth II’s successor, Charles, the former prince of Wales, will be known as king – one of the more scrutinized questions in anticipation of the prior sovereign’s death and one that has carried great symbolism in past royal transitions.
“Today the crown passes, as it has done for more than a thousand years, to our new monarch, our new head of state: his majesty, King Charles III,” Truss, who met with the queen at her estate in Scotland on Tuesday to request permission to form a new government, said in brief remarks outside 10 Downing Street. “Long live the king.”
Elizabeth became something of an outlier when she began her reign in 1952 by keeping her given name as what the British call the sovereign’s “regnal name.” Contemporaneous reports of her decision suggest she felt the need to maintain simplicity at a tumultuous time following the death of her father.
Her immediate two predecessors, however, like many other kings before them, had chosen other names when they ascended to the throne. The last king, her father, was born Albert Frederick Arthur George and went by “Bertie” but chose the title King George VI, apparently an homage to his father, King George V. He reportedly felt the need for continuity following the dramatic decision of his brother and predecessor, King Edward VII, to abdicate his role as king in 1936 after reigning for less than a year.
Known as “David” to his family, that king left his position in the wake of pressure from the British government for his desire to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
The current king, born Charles Philip Arthur George, could have chosen one of his other names as his royal title.
Clarence House, one of the royal residences, confirmed to the BBC shortly after Truss’ remarks that the new king would indeed be known as Charles III. He is the oldest person to ascend to that position having followed the longest serving English monarch.
Some royal watchers suspected the current king would have adopted another name as monarch to break from the historically dreadful tenures of his namesake predecessors. King Charles I, whose tumultuous reign included feuding with Parliament over the reach of the powers of the sovereign, was convicted of treason and executed in 1649. His successor, Charles II, is broadly considered among the most unpopular monarchs with a reign marked by excesses in and out his court. He acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children born to several mistresses.
A formal statement from Buckingham Palace also confirmed the widely anticipated decision that Charles’ second wife, Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, would be known as the “queen consort.” Ultimately up to Charles upon his ascension, the royal offices at the time of their marriage in 2005 had indicated the former Camilla Parker Bowles would only adopt the style of “princess consort” instead of “queen,” the historic title for the wife of the king. That decision changed earlier this year when, on the date marking the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, her message included a “sincere wish” that Camilla be known as queen consort when Charles became king.