King Charles intends to follow Queen Elizabeth's "shining example" in Northern Ireland.

King Charles at Hillsborough Castle

King Charles at Hillsborough Castle

The 73-year-old king has paid a glowing tribute to the late monarch, acknowledging the "great affection" that she had for the country and the "momentous and historic changes" that she witnessed during her reign.

During a speech at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland on Tuesday (13.09.22), Charles - who held a private audience with the new Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris - said: "On behalf of all my family, I can only offer the most heartfelt thanks for your condolences.

"I am here today at a time of great personal sorrow as we mark the death of my beloved mother, after a life most faithfully dedicated to the duty to which she had been called.

"It is fitting that we should meet at Hillsborough, which my mother knew so well, and in whose beautiful rose garden she always took such pleasure."

Charles observed that his mother played a significant role in helping to bring people together in Northern Ireland.

His speech continued: "In the years since she began her long life of public service, my mother saw Northern Ireland pass through momentous and historic changes.

"Through all those years, she never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place and for its people, whose stories she knew, whose sorrows our family had felt, and for whom she had a great affection and regard.

"My mother felt deeply, I know, the significance of the role she herself played in bringing together those whom history had separated, and in extending a hand to make possible the healing of long-held hurts.

"At the very beginning of her life of service, the queen made a pledge to dedicate herself to her country and her people and to maintain the principles of constitutional government.

"This promise she kept with steadfast faith."

Charles then pledged to follow the example of his mother.

The king said: "Now, with that shining example before me, and with God's help, I take up my new duties resolved to seek the welfare of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland.

"During the years of my mother's reign, it has been a privilege to bear witness to such a devoted life. May it be granted to us all to fulfil the tasks before us so well."

Alex Maskey, the speaker of the Stormont Assembly, echoed Charles' thoughts, saying the queen had not been "a distant observer" in the country's transformation.

He said: "[The queen] demonstrated how individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconciliation."