King Charles III led Remembrance Day commemorations in London on Sunday for the first time as Britain’s monarch, laying a newly designed wreath after a two-minute silence at The Cenotaph war memorial.
Wreath designers said it also paid tribute to the racing colors used by both Queen Elizabeth II and his grandfather King George VI.
Charles, who became King following the death of his Elizabeth in September, was joined by other senior members of the royal family including his son and heir Prince William. His wife and queen consort, Camilla, watched from the balcony of a nearby government building.
Chief of the Defense Staff Tony Radakin said the ceremony to honor Britain’s war dead had an “additional poignancy” after the loss of the queen.
“She represented duty and service, but also that dignity of that wartime generation and all that they sacrificed for our freedom,” he told the BBC.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, leaders of opposition political parties, senior ministers, and faith representatives also laid wreaths during the ceremony on Whitehall in central London, which was lined by thousands of members of the public.
The ceremony, also attended by seven former prime ministers, is due to be followed by a march past which will involve around 10,000 Royal British Legion veterans, representing 300 different armed forces and civilian organizations.
Buckingham Palace said the design of the King’s wreath paid tribute to the wreath of his grandfather King George and his mother Elizabeth, with poppies mounted on an arrangement of black leaves and a ribbon bearing Charles’s racing colors of scarlet, purple and gold.
The chimes marking the start of the two-minute silence at 11:00 a.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) saw the permanent reconnection of the Big Ben bell in parliament’s Elizabeth Tower, after it was largely silenced for five years of repair.
Officials said this years’ service is dedicated both to fallen soldiers in wars past and to Ukrainians fighting against Russia’s invasion.
“We must never forget those who gave their lives in defense of our values and our great nation,” said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
“All of us will also be thinking of those brave Ukrainians who are fighting for their very own survival to defend freedom and democracy for all, just as the U.K. and Commonwealth soldiers did in both world wars,” he said.