September 9, 2022 - 10:00am

It was supposed to be a service of prayers for an ailing Queen, but minutes before the 7pm start last night the news went out.

Giles Fraser, as well as being an UnHerd columnist, is vicar of St Anne’s Church in Kew Green — a church with centuries-long royal connections. Amid the uncertainty of yesterday afternoon, he invited his congregation in for a spontaneous 7pm service, and allowed UnHerd to be there with our cameras to capture the moment. At 6:34pm the BBC News alert reached everyone’s phones that the Queen had died.

Immediately, he began to ring the church bell, still audible across the green despite the traffic and the planes overhead. Members of the congregation began to drift in, some of them tearful.

Giles chose a traditional service from the Book of Common Prayer, known to be preferred by the royal family.

Reference to the monarch is woven throughout the liturgy, but because Charles had ascended instantly to the throne at the moment of the Queen’s death, all references to the Queen had to be replaced by reference to the King:

Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite, have mercy upon the whole Church, and so rule the heart of thy chosen servant Charles, our King and Governor, that he, knowing whose minister he is, may above all things seek thy honour and glory. That we, and all his subjects, duly considering whose authority he hath, may faithfully serve, honour and obey him, in thee and for thee, according to thy blessed word and ordinance.

He spoke spontaneously to his congregation.

Tonight we’re going to stand, my friends, and we’re going to sing God Save the King. We’ve sung God Save the Queen for the last time. Perhaps we will never sing those words again… The Queen was continuity, as in the hymn we’ve just sung: “change and decay in all around I see. Oh thou who changes not abide with me.” She’s the continuity we’ve had in this country for all of our lifetimes…”

At which point, for the first time — most likely one of the very first times in the whole country — the congregation stood and sang God Save the King.

Thanks to Giles and the congregation of St Anne’s Kew for allowing us to be there at such a historic moment.

is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.