The King has presented new Standards and Colours to the armed forces in what he said was “the greatest possible privilege”.
Charles, dressed in a field marshal uniform, spoke of the “intense pride” he feels and his “profound gratitude” to the many servicemen and servicewomen who stood before him in the back garden of Buckingham Palace on Thursday.
The four Colours and Standards which were consecrated will be seen during the coronation procession on May 6.
“We very much look forward to seeing these Colours carried on parade in nine days’ time on the occasion of our coronation,” Charles said in a speech.
The Royal Navy, the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, The King’s Company of the Grenadier Guards and The King’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force were all recipients.
“It is some 85 years since a King’s Colour has been presented and, on such a special occasion, I particularly wanted to express my heartfelt appreciation to each and every one of you, as representatives from the three services, for your loyal service over the course of her remarkable reign, to the late Queen who, I know, held you all in such high regard.
“Throughout centuries of distinguished service, to this nation and to the Crown, your predecessors – and now you yourselves – have defended these and other shores.
“Through your diligence, professionalism and courage, you have kept our people safe. No task confronting you is too challenging or dangerous.
“Your loyalty and devotion to the service you represent and to your Colours are the hallmark of the gallantry and selflessness you display on our behalf.
“The intense pride I feel in all you represent and stand for is second to none and, as your Sovereign, I can only assure you of my profound gratitude.”
He added: “Whilst I appreciate this comes at some cost to you, but more so your loved ones, it is this high regard in which you are held that is such an incomparable asset to this country.
“Having trained, and served, in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and making some close affiliations over the course of the last 47 years as Colonel-in-Chief of multiple regiments within the British Army, my wife joins me in thanking you for your continued service and commitment, and your families, for their tremendous, unwavering support.”
The event began with Charles’s arrival in the Quadrangle of Buckingham Palace which was announced by a Fanfare by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry.
The new Standard of the Life Guards was then consecrated by the Chaplain General.
Camilla became colonel of the celebrated battalion, whose troops are famous for wearing bearskin hats on ceremonial duties, in December 2022.
The Queen Consort dressed in red for the occasion, wearing a coat dress by Fiona Clare and a striking beret by Philip Treacy.
Personnel from the Royal Navy, The King’s Company of the Grenadier Guards and The King’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force were assembled, alongside His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band and the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment.
When Charles and Camilla arrived together, accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Staff, they were met by a royal salute and the national anthem.
The three Colours were blessed by the three Service Chaplains, in the presence of the First Sea Lord, the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, and the Chief of the Air Staff.
After the King presented the new Colours, he and Camilla received a final royal salute before the parade marched off.
They then briefly met guests who watched the ceremony before heading back into the Palace.
The event, which was the first Colours presentation at which all three services of the armed forces were represented, lasted around 45 minutes.
The Palace said the term “Colours” appears to have come into regular usage in the late 16th century, when they were used as rallying points on the battlefield, helping troops locate each other and avoid becoming disorientated during the fog of war.
Nowadays, Colours are a formalised continuation of that ancient battlefield practice, being the ceremonial evidence of the spirit of a service or regiment.
While Colours are renewed every 10 to 12 years, The King’s Company Colour, the Royal Standard of the Grenadier Guards, is the personal gift of the Sovereign, presented only once in each reign, and is laid at the feet of sovereigns who have died, upon their catafalques.