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The King’s reign begins: the official portraits of Charles III’s first months

King Charles III took the throne on September 8th 2022, on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. His Majesty spent the first weeks of his reign continually in the public spotlight, as he took on his new responsibilities while leading national mourning for Her Late Majesty and dealing with his own personal grief. Tens of thousands of photos have been taken of The King in the four months since his accession but just a handful of formal, official portraits are among them.

A Monarch in mourning, September 9th 2022

The first formal portrait of King Charles III came just 24 hours into his reign. On September 9th 2022, as he prepared to address the nation following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the start of his own rule, His Majesty posed for a photo at Buckingham Palace.

i-Images / Pool

Dressed in mourning and looking exhausted after 24 hours which had seen him say farewell to his beloved mother while taking on the role of Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth, His Majesty looks solemnly outwards. At his side is an image of Queen Elizabeth II while on his other side, a vase of her favourite flowers are a memorial and an act of mourning. In front of him is an empty piece of blotting paper – a blank page on which a new history is about to be written.

All change for Charles III, October 2022

A new reign means many changes and among the most noticeable will be a new face on the coins and notes used tens of millions across several countries in the months and years to come. Soon after his accession, the first image of Charles III on coins was released by the Royal Mint.

Royal Mint

The portrait of His Majesty on the coins is the creation of sculptor, Martin Jennings, and was first used on commemorative coins issued on October 3rd 2022. It first entered circulation in November 2022 on 50p coins issued to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Around the portrait of The King are the words ”Charles III D.G. Rex F.D. 2022” meaning Charles III, by the Grace of God, King, Defender of the Faith, 2022”. As is traditional, His Majesty is facing in the opposite direction on the coins to his predecessor.

A special role for a new Monarch, November 14th 2022

King Charles III marked his first birthday as Monarch in November 2022 and a special image was released as he turned 74. It was taken to celebrate his decision to take on another important role.

Chris Jackson/ Getty Images

His Majesty became the Ranger of Windsor Great Park, a role last held by his beloved father, The Duke of Edinburgh. The ranger oversees and supports the care of one of the oldest landed estates in England. The role has been held by many royals through the years. The King’s birthday image showed him looking to the future from the heart of the ancient royal estate.

The King’s Speech, December 2022

For the first time in seventy years, it was a King who broadcast to the nation on Christmas Day. Charles III gave his first festive address from the Quire of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor where, just months earlier, he had watched as the Imperial State Crown was removed from the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II ahead of her burial.

Victoria Jones / PA Wire / Handout

Now, Charles made it the setting for this most important of speeches. He used his first Christmas Day broadcast to pay tribute to his beloved mother. But he also showed his concern for those struggling in the cost of living crisis and had warm words of support for all religious denominations and interfaith dialogue. Ahead of his speech, the first ever Christmas broadcast on TV by a British King, His Majesty was photographed in the Chapel for another formal portrait, another part of the story of the first months of the reign of King Charles III.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.