No one younger than their mid to late 60’s will remember the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. For anyone younger than that it’s only seen through old news reels and photographs. For today’s blog I’m off back to the time and the place.
Remembering the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
I was very young when the Queen, who was then the 25 year old Princess Elizabeth, claimed her title on the death of her father. King George VI died on 5 February 1952.
I think she was at Treetops in Africa when the news came, and even as a young child, I was aware that something very important had happened.
Back then, we only ever saw the news at the local cinema, in between the trailers for films. It took the form of clips from Pathe News, this carried the story of the new young Queen. I obviously picked bits up from my parents, but can’t say at that age I was particularly bothered.
This Pathe News video clip shows her coming back home from her cancelled Commonwealth tour –
All this was to change when the Queen was to be crowned. The country was swept up into a world of fever pitch excitement, and even I became aware that something big was about to happen.
The Magic of Television Arrives!
I don’t know if it was the coronation that was the deciding factor or not, but I came home from Junior School to find a strange object sat in the corner of our living room. Yes, it was a television. Nobody had these amazing things, but now we did!
It was a twelve inch screen, in a beautiful walnut cabinet that looked like a piece of furniture. It stood on the floor like a big cupboard with handles. Nobody would have guessed that a screen lurked within its depths.
The first thing I ever saw on the magical box was Andy Pandy. My mother had proudly put it on for me when I came in from Junior School, but at eight years old I felt too old to be watching Andy Pandy. Nonetheless, it was amazing to see things moving about on the screen. It was like going to the pictures in your own front room! The picture was black and white, or should I say grey, and very dazzly to say the least.
Remembering the Coronation – on TV
However, it came into its own on the day of the coronation in 1953. As we were the only ones with a television on our street, guess who got the job of entertaining all the neighbours. Yes. it was my big hearted mum.
For a long time, Coronation fever was the order of the day, so everybody was all agog with excitement. I was allowed to go to our local sweet shop for a few pence worth of toffees to enjoy while this amazing event was taking place. This was a big event, as food rationing had not long been abolished, so it was a real treat to get a few toffees in a white, screwed up paper bag.
A community event
My poor mother was baking all morning – cakes, buns, pies – you name it she made it, all to feed her audience. When the time came, in they all trooped, The settee and chairs and dining chairs were quickly filled, so the rest of the crowd had to sit on the floor. You couldn’t put a pin down it was so full.
I was sat at the front with my bag of toffees, all ready for this momentous event that was about to unfold. One person hosting the whole street was a common thing at the time. TV was only just starting to roll out across the country and was certainly helped along by the Coronation. Quite a few people bought one to watch the event, and then everyone else wanted one too. Strange that it’s normal now for every house to have several screens, often one in each room.
And so the programme began. The living room was silent, everyone focused on the grey snowy screen.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
There was the state parade from Buckingham Palace, with the Coronation coach with the Queen and Prince Philip in it. The procession slowly made its way through the cheering people lining the streets on its way to Westminster Abbey. Even as a child, and even in black and white, I realised that the Coronation coach was a magnificent affair. Obviously I now know that it is a splendid gold design and truly spectacular.
The procession seemed to go on forever, but eventually, the Royal couple arrived at their destination and began the long walk down the aisle. The Queen was dressed in a white satin dress, with the amazing crown on her head. She looked as if she could only just manage to walk with the weight of it all. She seemed very small and very young among all the important people that were there.
I remember looking up at the Queen Mother, who was standing with Prince Charles and Princess Anne. They seemed to be dressed in satin, and were very young. How they sat still through all the hours of the ceremony I don’t know. I also remember them both being born, and how important they were, but to me they appeared to be two young children watching their mummy. Anne had very blonde curly hair, and I remember thinking how lovely it would to be her!
A Long Ceremony
The ceremony began, with the Queen sitting on her throne. There she was, balancing this enormous crown on her head, with an orb and sceptre in her hands. As an adult, I’ve wondered many times how on earth she coped with the long hours of the Coronation in all that gear. It was the first time I’d ever seen ermine on a robe, and was impressed by how beautiful she looked.
The thing that really sticks in my mind was the anointing with oil. She sat under a huge canopy of silk, supported on each corner by a pole. She sat underneath while the ceremony went on. There were Church dignitaries swinging incense about while this took place, and I was struck by the seriousness of the occasion. There was a lot of singing and prayers in between all the pomp and ceremony, which went on for hours.
Feeding the Five Thousand
While all this was going on, my mother was feeding her guests and making copious amounts of tea. I can’t remember her sitting down at all to watch the television. She was busy with her pinny on, feeding the five thousand! The ceremony went on for hours, and as an eight year old, I’ve got to say I was mightily bored. The guests started to get fidgety and were obviously bored too. It went on for far too long for a watching audience.
When the long ceremony was over, the royal procession made its way back, presumably to Buckingham Palace for photographs and a state banquet. By contrast, my poor mum and probably many others like her, was left with all the washing up tidying up to do when everyone had gone. But all in all, it was classed as a good day.
School children were all given a coronation mug with a picture of the Queen on it. I’ve no idea what happened to mine, it probably got broken with the passage of time.
The Queen Today
As of updating this article in 2019, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest lived British monarch, reigning for longer even than Queen Victoria.
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