King Charles has paid tribute to Britain’s war dead as he led a moving Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph this morning.
The King led a two-minute silence that took place across the UK and laid the first wreath in front of the memorial in London, where a major policing operation remains in place today after more than 120 arrests were made as a pro-Palestinian march was held on Armistice Day.
The Prince of Wales also laid a wreath, as did the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other senior politicians.
Among those who participated in the ceremony was Home Secretary Suella Braverman who was seen in public for the first time since Armistice Day was blighted by brutal clashes in central London yesterday.
Police were injured by far-right thugs after Ms Braverman branded the Gaza rally a ‘hate march’ and accused Scotland Yard of bias for letting it go ahead.
Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan have stepped up calls for Ms Braverman to be sacked. There is speculation over a reshuffle later this week – potentially after a crunch Rwanda policy judgment on Wednesday.
The nation fell silent on Sunday to honour those who died in conflict as the King led a moving Remembrance Day service.
A two-minute silence took place across the UK at 11am. Wreaths were then laid by members of the royal family, senior politicians and dignitaries at the Cenotaph in London.
Charles led the country at the Whitehall memorial in commemorating the end of the First World War and other conflicts involving British and Commonwealth forces.
Wearing the uniform of the Marshal of the Royal Air Force with greatcoat, poppy and sword, the King laid a wreath similar to the one produced for King George VI.
The wreath featured 41 open style poppy petals made from bonded fabric.
It was mounted on an arrangement of black leaves – traditional for sovereign’s wreaths – of 27-inch diameter ribbon and bow using the colours from the King’s racing silk – scarlet, purple and gold.
A wreath was laid at the Cenotaph for the Queen by Major Ollie Plunket, The Rifles, equerry to Camilla.
The Queen viewed the Remembrance Day service from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office centre balcony, alongside the Princess of Wales.
The Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal also laid wreaths at the Cenotaph.
Almost 10,000 veterans and 800 armed forces personnel from all three services were then due to take part in a march-past.
Among those marching are 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 are represented, as well as 300 veterans not affiliated with an association who have been invited to join for the first time.
Senior politicians including Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Ed Davey, James Cleverly and Suella Braverman were assembled near the Cenotaph. Behind them were former prime ministers Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Theresa May, Sir Tony Blair and Sir John Major.
The Prime Minister was among senior politicians who have laid a wreath at the Cenotaph. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Ms Braverman also took part in the ceremony.
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.’
There was a strong police presence, with officers lining both sides of the road and standing sentry centre around the monument, for today’s ceremony after violence erupted in the streets of London yesterday.
The service came after the Metropolitan Police said it made 126 arrests after far-right groups gathered to ‘protect the Cenotaph’ from a major pro-Palestine march during Armistice day on Saturday.
Nine officers were injured after they were pelted with bottles, cans and metal fences while preventing a crowd of mainly far-right football hooligans from reaching the Cenotaph.
Scuffles broke out as police attempted to stop a crowd of people carrying St George’s flags marching along Embankment towards Whitehall, where the Cenotaph is located, shortly after 10am.
The group, which had been chanting ‘England ’til I die’ pushed through the police barrier, with some shouting ‘let’s have them’ as officers hit out with batons.
Further clashes with police took place in Chinatown with counter-protesters chanting: ‘You’re not English any more’ towards officers.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the ugly scenes on Armistice Day ‘utterly disrespects’ the spirit of remembrance. He said he would meet Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to hold him ‘accountable’ for dealing with the disturbances.
Pictures showed rival groups of demonstrators clashing in Trafalgar Square, with one counter-protester seen wielding a stick – as Michael Gove was hassled by pro-Palestinians shouting ‘shame on you’ as he tried to leave Victoria station.
Mr Sunak said in a statement: ‘I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL (English Defence League) and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the National March for Palestine. The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully.’
He said their actions do ‘not defend the honour of our Armed Forces, but utterly disrespects them’, adding: ‘That is true for EDL thugs attacking police officers and trespassing on the Cenotaph, and it is true for those singing antisemitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing on today’s protest.’
Mr Sunak said he would be meeting the Met chief, adding: ‘All criminality must be met with the full and swift force of the law.
‘That is what I told the Met Police Commissioner on Wednesday, that is what they are accountable for and that is what I expect.’
Meanwhile, an emotional King Charles was last night joined by a host of high-profile royals as statues of his late parents Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were unveiled at a special festival of remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
The life-sized bronze artworks, commemorating the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh‘s dedication to the Royal Albert Hall, were erected as part of the building’s 150th anniversary.
Charles was joined by Queen Camilla and the Prince and Princess of Wales at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance, with Kate wearing one of the late Queen’s pearl necklaces.
As they took their seats, Charles was seen waving to the packed hall.
Mr Sunak observed the event from a box to the left of the royals alongside his wife Akshata Murty while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer sat in a separate box to the right with his wife Lady Victoria.
The event saw the King unveil the statue of his late mother, while Camilla pulled back the curtain on the bust of Prince Philip.
Upon arriving, Charles and Camilla shook hands with two men before they revealed the statues for the first time.
After a countdown of three, Camilla pulled on a golden rope and red velvet curtains revealed the bronze statue of Prince Philip.
Then Charles did the same and unveiled the statue of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September 2022.
Artworks of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were also unveiled at the Royal Albert Hall this week.
The statues, created by artist Poppy Field, ‘complete’ the building by filling the niches of its north porch, which have been empty since 1871, and its south porch, added in 2003.
Charles and Camilla were seen clapping at various points during the event including at the arrival of the Chelsea Pensioners.
Hosting the annual Royal British Legion event, Clare Balding said that servicemen and women who have lost their lives are ‘kept alive with our words, our memories, our tributes’.
There were performances from British soul singer Mica Paris, pop star Calum Scott, Chelsea Pensioner Colin Thackery and tenor Alfie Boe, who performed Bring Him Home.
The Princess Royal led a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest military campaign of the Second World War.