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In the United Kingdom, the Accession Council is a ceremonial body which assembles in St James's Palace upon the death of a monarch (Demise of the Crown), to formally proclaim the accession of the successor to the throne. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, a new monarch succeeds automatically. The proclamation merely confirms by name the identity of the heir who has succeeded.
The Council is made up of Privy Counsellors, Great Officers of State, members of the House of Lords, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Aldermen of the City of London, High Commissioners of Commonwealth realms, and other civil servants.
The Council's Proclamation of Accession, which confirms the name of the heir, is signed by all the attendant Privy Counsellors. The proclamation is traditionally read out at several locations in London, Edinburgh, Windsor, and York. It may also be read at a central location in a town or village.
The most recent proclamation was as follows:
Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George the Sixth of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
WE, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these His late Majesty's Privy Council, with representatives of other Members of the Commonwealth, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of all Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to whom Her lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess Elizabeth the Second with long and happy Years to reign over us.
Though proclamations have been worded broadly the same, they also vary as necessary. In the case of Victoria, certain words were included (having regard to section 2 of the Regency Act 1830 prescribing the Oath of Allegiance) which expressly reserved the rights of any child of the late king, William IV, which might be borne to his widow, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. In the case of George VI, the proclamation was reworded because Edward VIII had abdicated, rather than died, and "Emperor of India" was added at the end of the list of titles until that title was relinquished by George VI.
The proclamation has been ceremonially read out in various locations around the United Kingdom. By custom, it is usually first read from the Friary Court balcony at St James's Palace by the heralds of the College of Arms. The heralds proceed to travel and read it at various points in London (including Trafalgar Square, and the original site of Temple Bar on Fleet Street) until they reach the Royal Exchange where it is read in the presence of the Lord Mayor of London and other officials. Likewise, the heralds of the Court of the Lord Lyon also publicly read the proclamation from Mercat Cross in Edinburgh.
Under the Acts of Union 1707, monarchs are required upon succeeding to the throne to make an oath to "maintain and preserve" the Church of Scotland. This oath is normally made at the Accession Council. The provision in Article XXV Section II of the Acts of Union 1707 states with respect to confirmed Acts of Scotland:
And further Her Majesty with Advice aforesaid expressly declares and statutes that none of the Subjects of this Kingdom [Scotland] shall be liable to but all and every one of them for ever free of any Oath Test or Subscription within this Kingdom contrary to or inconsistent with the foresaid true Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government Worship and Discipline as above established and that the same within the Bounds of this Church and Kingdom shall never be imposed upon or required of them in any sort And lastly that after the decease of Her present Majesty (whom God long preserve) the Sovereign succeeding to Her in the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Great Britain shall in all time coming at His or Her Accession to the Crown swear and subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid Settlement of the true Protestant Religion with the Government Worship Discipline right and Privileges of this Church as above established by the Laws of this Kingdom in Prosecution of the Claim of Right
Queen Elizabeth II was in Kenya when she acceded to the throne, and the Accession Council therefore met twice, first for the proclamation and again so that the new Queen could take the oath..
Upon accession, a new sovereign is also required to make what is known as the Accession Declaration. This is not usually made at a meeting of the Accession Council but in the presence of Parliament on the first State Opening following the monarch's accession to the throne or at his coronation, whichever occurs first. King George VI made the declaration at his coronation. In addition to the above oath and declaration, should a monarch have a coronation, he or she makes a Coronation Oath which contains references to the Church of England.
The King is dead. Long live the King!Edit
While "The King is dead. Long live the King" is commonly believed to be part of the official text of the Proclamation of Accession read out following the decision of the Accession Council as to the rightful heir to the throne, it is in fact only tradition that causes it to be recited immediately after the proclamation is read aloud in many villages and towns.
- "No. 39462". The London Gazette. 8 February 1952. p. 787.
- "No. 19509". The London Gazette. 20 June 1837. p. 1581.
...Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria, saving the rights of any issue of His late Majesty King William the Fourth which may be borne of His late Majesty's Consort...
- The Union with Scotland Act 1706, Article XXV, Section II
- Fodor's (2013-08-13). Fodor's London 2014. Fodor's Travel. ISBN 9780770432201.
- Wilkinson, Philip (2007-01-30). The British Monarchy For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470059319.
- House of Commons Research Briefings: The Coronation Oath. see: "No. 34453". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1953. p. 7054.
- Privy Council Website – Accession Council
- BBC On This Day feature, including clip of proclamation at Royal Exchange
- Accession Council's Proclamation, 20 June 1837, of Victoria as Queen "saving the rights of any issue of His late Majesty King William the Fourth which may be borne of his late Majesty's Consort":London Gazette issue 19509, page1581