King Charles led a moving Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph on Sunday as the nation fell silent to honour those who died at war.
A two-minute silence took place across the UK at 11am to commemorate the end of the First World War and other conflicts involving British and Commonwealth forces.
Wreaths were laid by members of the royal family, senior politicians and dignitaries at the Cenotaph in London, where a major policing operation remained in place after more than 120 arrests were made – mostly of far-right counterprotesters – as a pro-Palestinian march was held on Armistice Day.
Thousands of people braved drizzly weather and descended on Whitehall for the service, with many arriving hours early to get a good spot. The Massed Pipes and Drums played songs such as “Rule Britannia” in the rain but the showers stopped before Charles led the country in quiet reflection at the Whitehall memorial.
Wearing the uniform of the Marshal of the Royal Air Force with greatcoat, poppy and sword, Charles – who as sovereign is commander-in-chief of the British armed forces – laid a wreath similar to the one produced for King George VI.
The wreath featured 41 open poppy petals mounted on an arrangement of black leaves – traditional for sovereigns’ wreaths – of 27in diameter ribbon and bow using the colours from Charles’s racing silk: scarlet, purple and gold. The Prince of Wales also laid a wreath, as did the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal.
Senior politicians including prime minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, home secretary Suella Braverman and foreign secretary James Cleverly also laid wreaths. Major Ollie Plunket of The Rifles, equerry to Queen Camilla, laid a wreath on behalf of the Queen, who was watching from a balcony with the Princess of Wales.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen’s wreath closely resembled the one produced for the Queen Mother. They were joined in paying tribute by the living former UK prime ministers: Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Sir Tony Blair and Sir John Major.
Almost 10,000 veterans and 800 armed forces personnel from all three services were then due to take part in a march-past, and members of the public applauded as they processioned past. Nine D-Day veterans were due to participate in the Remembrance Day service and the oldest, Joe Randall, 100, was due to march with the Spirit of Normandy Trust, a Government spokesperson said.
Among those marching were nuclear test veterans, who for the first time will wear a medal acknowledging their contribution.
After 70 years of waiting for recognition, those exposed to the effects of nuclear bombs during the UK’s testing programme were given a medal, depicting an atom surrounded by olive branches, for the Remembrance Sunday service.
More than 300 armed forces and civilian organisations were represented, as well as 300 veterans not affiliated with an association who were invited to join for the first time.
Edward donned the Royal Wessex Yeomanry uniform for the ceremony, while Anne wore a Royal Navy uniform in the rank of admiral with a greatcoat, cap, sword and poppy. Before the service, City of Westminster street cleaners swept and washed the Whitehall road approaching the Cenotaph, and volunteers handed out hymn sheets to the crowd.
Mr Sunak said: “The courage and commitment shown by our servicemen and women, both today and throughout the generations that came before them, is humbling and I know many across the country will be honouring their memory today in quiet reflection.
“Recent events have served as a stark reminder that we cannot take the hard-earned peace we live in for granted, which is why I am honoured to lay a wreath on behalf of the nation in the memory of all those that have lost their lives defending our country and the values we hold so close. I am determined to ensure we never forget the ultimate sacrifice they have made.”