IANS

Prince Charles, 73, who had been heir to the crown for 70 years -- the longest in the country's history -- has ascended the British throne.

The development followed immediately upon his mother Queen Elizabeth II, 96, passed away after being monarch since 1952 - which surpassed Queen Victoria's 63-year reign. Victoria ruled up to 1901.

Elizabeth was also Queen of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among other territories.

"The Queen is dead. Long live the King." This has been the British tradition for centuries, though there is still the matter of an official coronation to consummate the ascension.

Elizabeth breathed her last at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, one of her four 'royal' residences and possibly her favourite. Her family from near and afar had gathered there to be at her side in her final moments.

Apart from Charles, his elder son William, now next in succession, Charles' sister Anne, brothers Andrew and Edward and his wife Camilla were present.

William's younger brother Harry, who now lives in the United States, was to attend a function in London, but cancelled his appearance to join the rest of the family at Balmoral. It was unclear whether his wife Meghan accompanied him. The couple have been estranged from their relatives for some time.

Elizabeth was extraordinarily popular among her people and therefore widely accepted and respected by them. This rendered the British monarchy conceptually popular as well as opposed to republicanism.

The same cannot arguably be said of Charles, although he will now have an opportunity to prove himself and gain greater confidence of British citizens.

A YouGov poll put Charles' popularity with the British people at 42 per cent, with 24 per cent disliking him and 30 per cent being neutral. He has been a tireless campaigner for the environment for decades, from much before it became fashionable to talk about it. He also values organic food and classical architecture.

A question would arise as to whether Charles should automatically become head of the Commonwealth. But this was effectively decided by leaders of the 53-nation organisation, including India's endorsement of this move. He has in fact been officiating on Elizabeth's behalf at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, including the summit held earlier this year in Rwanda.

When Elizabeth's father George VI died in 1952, it was by no means cast in stone that she would step into her father's role in the Commonwealth sphere. The appointment of George as head of the Commonwealth was for his lifetime only.

However, a remarkable telegram from India's then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had settled the matter. In congratulating Elizabeth on succeeding her father, he also congratulated her on succeeding him as head of the Commonwealth. Such was Nehru's stature in the world, all member states of the Commonwealth fell in line with his sentiment.

"The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of great sadness for me and all members of my family," the new king shared in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.

"We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.

"During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held," Charles wrote.

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