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King Charles III makes first speech to the U.K.


King Charles III addressed the United Kingdom for the first time today following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth, yesterday. Britain's new monarch praised his mother's life of service and said he would continue to emulate it on the throne.


KING KING CHARLES III: In our sorrow, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt was listening to his first speech as monarch in London. Hey, Frank.


SHAPIRO: So his first address to the nation in a job that he's waited a very, very long time for. What else did he say?

LANGFITT: Yeah. It was a mix, Ari, I think, of praising his mother, but also beginning to make the case for his own reign. He talked about the queen's kind of personal touch and her global appeal. This is what he said.


KING CHARLES III: The affection, admiration and respect she inspired became the hallmark of her reign. She combined these qualities with warmth, humor and an unerring ability always to see the best in people.

SHAPIRO: Did he give any sense of how he might be similar to or different from his mother as a monarch?

LANGFITT: Well, he was really focusing, Ari, on this connection between himself and his mother's legacy of service, which is one of the reasons people here were so fond of her. And it was also, as you'd remember from your time here, it was a way that she kind of changed the monarchy from its image as Britain was losing its empire and relevance over the years. And Charles also made a nod to the fact that, you know, the United Kingdom is a much, much more diverse place than when his mother took the throne back in 1952.


KING CHARLES III: Whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.

SHAPIRO: How'd it go over?

LANGFITT: Well, you know, I can't tell you because it's a big country, and I don't know how many people watched. But I decided to go to a pub nearby. And it was mostly people - early 30s professionals. And they watched in part, I think, because the pub manager did put it on. And for them, they say it kind of fell flat. They had great respect for the queen. But Charles - he's now 73 years old. They don't feel he really has her touch. And the family, with the exception of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, the wife of Prince Harry - of course, they had gone to live in the States - the family remains entirely white. So it's not really as - not that representative the way this country has been changing. And I was talking to a woman named Aisha Paw (ph). She's an engineer of Indian descent. And this was her - this was the way she responded to it.

AISHA PAW: We're a different age. We're a different gender, different skin color. Like, I don't really have anything in common with him.

SHAPIRO: Frank, as you know, I covered the U.K. for years before you did. And all the way back then and before, there were these questions about Charles, whether he would resonate in a younger, more diverse Britain. That seems front and center right now.

LANGFITT: Yeah, it really is. And I think the people have been talking about - since long before even you were here, both of us. And one of the things people talked about today in the pub as they were watching and listening is the words seemed kind of stilted. They seemed written from a different era. You just heard some of them in terms of the delivery, and didn't really speak to the concerns of ordinary Britons. I was talking to a woman named Sophie Fisher. She's a management consultant from New Zealand. And this was this was her response.

SOPHIE FISHER: I feel like the queen has been like a critical component of unifying the whole nation. I can't see someone like Charles modernizing. Everything he said was completely written by someone that has no idea about the country.

LANGFITT: And I got to say, Ari, through no fault of his own, King Charles comes to the throne here at a really difficult time for Britain. There's soaring energy prices, obviously, a war in Europe, just basically got rid of a very divisive prime minister, Boris Johnson, who was in many ways the antithesis of the queen, and the country that, you know, six years after the Brexit vote continues to kind of keep searching for its role in the world.

SHAPIRO: Some rough reviews there. Did you find any love for the new king?

LANGFITT: There was, you know, absolutely. There was a lovely scene this morning in front of Buckingham Palace where he greeted people. He shook their hands. He read the cards from all the flowers that were piled up at the gates. And he came off as quite warm and genuine. And I think you will see he's going to be traveling this week basically around the country, trying to generate support, unify the country around his reign. But the overall impression right now is that Charles will have a hard act to follow in his mother.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thank you.

LANGFITT: Good to talk, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.