- Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in their coronation portrait, June 1953
Participants Queen Elizabeth II
Great Officers of State
Archbishops and Bishops Assistant of the Church of England
Garter Principal King of Arms
Peers of the Realm
Mistress of the Robes
Location London, England Date June 2, 1953
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the ceremony in which the newly ascended monarch, Elizabeth II, was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon, and Pakistan, as well as taking on the role of Head of the Commonwealth. Elizabeth ascended the thrones of these countries upon the death of her father, King George VI on 6 February 1952, and was proclaimed queen by her various privy and executive councils shortly afterward. The coronation, was held more than a year after the accession, on 2 June 1953; this followed the tradition that a festival such as a coronation was inappropriate during the period of mourning that followed the death of the preceding sovereign. In the coronation ceremony itself, Elizabeth swore an oath to uphold the laws of her nations and, specifically for England, to govern the Church of England.
For the one-day coronation ceremony, which would cost $4 million, 16 months of preparation took place, with the first meeting of the Coronation Commission taking place in April 1952, under the chairmanship of the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Though Elizabeth's grandmother Queen Mary died on 24 March, the dowager Queen had stated in her will that her passing should not affect the planning of the coronation, and the event went ahead as scheduled.
Norman Hartnell was commissioned by the Queen to design the outfits for all the members of the Royal Family and especially the dress Elizabeth would wear at the coronation; Hartnell's design for the latter evolved through nine proposals, the final reached by his own research as well as numerous personal meetings with the Queen. What resulted was a white silk dress embroidered with the floral emblems of the countries of the Commonwealth at the time: the Tudor rose of England, the Scots thistle, the Welsh leek, shamrocks for Ireland, the wattle of Australia, the maple leaf of Canada, the New Zealand fern, South Africa's protea, two lotus flowers for India and Ceylon, and Pakistan's wheat, cotton, and jute; unknown to the Queen at the time of the gown's delivery, though, was the unique four-leaf clover embroidered on the dress' left side, where Elizabeth's hand would touch throughout the day.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, rehearsed for the upcoming day with her maids of honour, a sheet used in place of the velvet train and an arrangement of chairs standing in for the carriage. So that she could become accustomed to its feel and weight, the Queen also wore the Imperial State Crown while she went about her daily business, sporting it at her desk, at tea, and while reading the newspaper. Elizabeth took part in two full rehearsals at Westminster Abbey, on 22 and 29 May, though other sources assert that the Queen attended either "several" rehearsals or one. Typically, the Duchess of Norfolk stood in for the Queen at rehearsals.
The Coronation ceremony of Elizabeth II followed a similar pattern to the coronations of the kings and queens before her, being held in Westminster Abbey, and involving the peerage and clergy. However, for the new Queen, several parts of the ceremony were markedly different. The coronation of the Queen was the first ever to be televised (although the BBC Television Service had covered part of the procession from Westminster Abbey after her father's coronation in 1937), and was also the world's first major international event to be broadcast on television. There had been considerable debate within the British Cabinet on the subject, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill against the idea; but, Elizabeth refused her British prime minister's advice on this matter and insisted the event take place before television cameras, as well as those filming with experimental 3-D technology.[n 1] Millions across Britain watched the coronation live, while, to make sure Canadians could see it on the same day, English Electric Canberras flew film of the ceremony across the Atlantic Ocean to be broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the first non-stop flights between the United Kingdom and the Canadian mainland. In Goose Bay, Newfoundland, the film was transferred to a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-100 jet fighter for the further trip to Montreal. In all, three such voyages were made as the coronation proceeded.
Guests and officials passed in a procession before approximately three million spectators gathered in the streets of London, some having camped overnight in their spot to ensure a view of the monarch, and others having access to specially built bleachers and scaffolding along the route. For those not present to witness the event, more than 200 microphones were stationed along the path and in Westminster Abbey, with 750 commentators broadcasting descriptions in 39 languages; more than twenty million viewers around the world watched the coverage. Military representation from throughout the Commonwealth marched in parade prior to the Queen's arrival, including the Canadian Coronation Contingent.
The procession included foreign royalty and heads of state riding to Westminster Abbey in various carriages, so many that volunteers ranging from wealthy businessmen to rural landowners were required to fill the insufficient ranks of regular footmen. The first royal coach left Buckingham Palace and moved down The Mall, which was filled with flag-waving and cheering crowds. It was followed by the Irish State Coach carrying Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who wore the circlet of her crown bearing the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Queen Elizabeth II proceeded through London from Buckingham Palace, through Trafalgar Square, and towards the abbey in the Gold State Coach. Attached to the shoulders of her dress, the Queen wore the Robe of State, a 5.5 metre (6 yard) long, hand woven silk velvet cloak lined with Canadian ermine that required the assistance of the Queen's maids of honour — Lady Jane Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Lady Anne Coke, Lady Moyra Hamilton, Lady Mary Baillie-Hamilton, Lady Jane Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, Lady Rosemary Spencer-Churchill, and the Duchess of Devonshire — to carry.
After being closed since the Queen's accession for coronation preparations, on Coronation Day, Westminster Abbey was at 6am opened to the approximately 8,000 guests invited from across the Commonwealth of Nations; more prominent individuals, such as members of the Queen's family and foreign royalty, the peers of the United Kingdom, heads of state, Members of Parliament from the Queen's various legislatures, and the like, arrived after 8:30 am. From Canada came the Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Louis Breithaupt and his premier, Leslie Frost, as well as Premier of Saskatchewan Tommy Douglas, Quebec Cabinet ministers Onésime Gagnon and John Samuel Bourque, Mayor of Toronto Allan A. Lamport, and Chief of the Squamish Nation Joe Mathias. Tonga's Queen Tupou III was a guest, and was noted for her cheery demeanour even while riding in an open carriage through London in the rain.
Preceding the Queen into Westminster Abbey was St. Edward's Crown, carried into the abbey by the Lord High Steward of England, then the Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, who was flanked by two other peers, while the Archbishops and Bishops Assistant of the Church of England, in their copes and mitres, waited outside the Great West Door for the arrival of the Queen. When this occurred at approximately 11:00 am, Elizabeth found that the friction between her robes and the carpet caused her difficulty moving forward, and she said to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, "get me started!" Once going, the procession, which included the various High Commissioners of the Commonwealth carrying banners bearing the shields of the coats of arms of their respective nations, moved inside the abbey, up the central aisle and through the choir to the stage, as Psalms 122, 1–3, 6, and 7 were read and the choir sang out "Vivat Regina! Vivat Regina Elizabetha! Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!" As Elizabeth prayed at and then sat herself on the Chair of Estate to the south of the altar, the Bishops carried in the religious paraphernalia — the bible, paten, and chalice — and the peers holding the coronation regalia handed it over to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in turn, passed them to the Dean of Westminster, Alan Campbell Don, to be placed on the altar.
After the Queen moved to stand before King Edward's Chair (Coronation Chair), she turned, following as Fisher, along with the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain (the Viscount Simonds), Lord Great Chamberlain of England (the Earl of Ancaster), Lord High Constable of England (the Viscount Alanbrooke), and Earl Marshal of the United Kingdom (the Duke of Norfolk), all led by the Garter Principal King of Arms (George Bellew), asked the audience in each direction of the compass separately: "Sirs, I here present unto you Queen Elizabeth, your undoubted Queen: wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and service, are you willing to do the same?" The crowd would reply "God save Queen Elizabeth," every time, to each of which the Queen would curtsey in return.
Seated again on the Chair of Estate, Elizabeth then took the coronation Oath as administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the lengthy oath, the Queen swore to govern each of her countries according to their respective laws and customs, to mete out law and justice with mercy, to uphold Protestantism in the United Kingdom and protect the Church of England and preserve its bishops and clergy. She proceeded to the altar where she stated "The things which I have here promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God," before kissing the Bible and putting the royal sign-manual to the oath as the Bible was returned to the Dean of Westminster. From him the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, James Pitt-Watson, took the Bible and presented it to the Queen again, saying "to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God... we present you with this Book"; Elizabeth returned the book to Pitt-Watson, who placed it back with the Dean of Westminster.
The communion service was then conducted, involving prayers by both the clergy and Elizabeth, Fisher asking "O God... Grant unto this thy servant Elizabeth, our Queen, the spirit of wisdom and government, that being devoted unto thee with her whole heart, she may so wisely govern, that in her time thy Church may be in safety, and Christian devotion may continue in peace," before reading various excerpts from the First Epistle of Peter, Psalms, and the Gospel of Matthew. Elizabeth was then anointed as the assembly sang "Zadok the Priest"; the Queen's jewelry and crimson cape was removed by the Earl of Ancaster and the Mistress of the Robes, the Duchess of Devonshire, and, wearing only a simple, white linen dress also designed by Hartnell to completely cover the coronation gown, she moved to be seated in the Coronation Chair. There, Fisher, assisted by Don, made a cross on the Queen's forehead with holy oil made from the same base as that which had been used in the coronation of her father. Because this segment of the ceremony was considered absolutely sacrosanct, it was concealed from the view of the television cameras by a silk canopy held above the Queen by four Knights of the Garter. When this part of the coronation was complete, and the canopy removed, Don and the Duchess of Devonshire placed on the monarch the Colobium Sindonis and Supertunica.
From the altar, the Dean of Westminster passed to the Lord Great Chamberlain the spurs, which were presented to the Queen and then placed back on the altar. The Sword of State was then handed to Elizabeth, who, after a prayer was uttered by Fisher, placed it herself on the altar, and the peer who had been previously holding it took it back again after paying a sum of 100 shillings. The Queen was then invested with the Armills (bracelets), Stole Royal, Robe Royal, and the Sovereign's Orb, followed by the Queen's Ring, the Sceptre with the Cross, and the Sceptre with the Dove. With the first two items on and in her right hand and the latter in her left, Queen Elizabeth was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the crowd shouting "God save the Queen!" at the exact moment St. Edward's Crown touched the monarch's head. The princes and peers gathered then put on their coronets and a 21-gun salute was fired from the Tower of London.
With the benediction read, Elizabeth moved to the throne and the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the Bishops offered to her their fealty, after which, as the choir sang, the peers of the United Kingdom — led by the royal peers: the Queen's husband; Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent — each proceeded, in order of precedence, to pay their personal homage and allegiance to Elizabeth. When the last baron had completed this task, the assembly shouted "God save Queen Elizabeth. Long live Queen Elizabeth. May the Queen live for ever!" Having removed all her royal regalia, Elizabeth kneeled and took the communion, including a general confession and absolution, and, along with the audience, recited the Lord's Prayer.
Now wearing the Imperial State Crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb, and as the gathered guests sang "God Save the Queen", Elizabeth left Westminster Abbey through the nave and apse, out the Great West Door, followed by members of the Royal Family, the clergy, her prime ministers, etc. Then, transported back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, with an escort of thousands of military personnel from around the Commonwealth, the Queen appeared on the balcony of the Centre Room before a gathered crowd as a flypast went overhead.
The director of music for the coronation was William McKie, organist and master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey. Various pieces, both classical and contemporary, were used throughout the coronation ceremony. Canadian composer Healey Willan was commissioned by the Queen to pen an anthem to be played during the homage.
Celebrations, monuments, and media
All across the Queen's realms, the rest of the Commonwealth, and in other parts of the world, coronation celebrations were held. In London, the Queen hosted a coronation luncheon, for which the recipe Coronation chicken was devised, and a fireworks show was mounted on Victoria Embankment. Further, street parties were mounted all over the United Kingdom. Two weeks before the coronation, the children's literary magazine Collins Magazine rebranded itself as The Young Elizabethan.
On the Korean Peninsula, Canadian soldiers serving in the Korean War acknowledged the day by firing blue, red, and white coloured smoke shells at the enemy and drank rum rations in observance. In the United States, coronation parties were mounted, one in New York City attended by the Queen's uncle and aunt, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, while in Canada, military tattoos, horse races, parades, and fireworks displays were mounted. In Newfoundland, 90,000 boxes of candy were given to children, some getting theirs delivered by Royal Canadian Air Force drops. In Quebec, 400,000 people turned out in Montreal, 100,000 at Jeanne-Mance Park alone. A multicultural show was put on at Exhibition Place in Toronto, square dances and exhibitions took place in the prairie provinces, and, in Vancouver, the Chinese community performed a public lion dance. The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal was presented to thousands of recipients throughout the Queen's countries, and in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK, commemorative coins were issued. As with the coronation of George VI, acorns shed from oaks in Windsor Great Park, around Windsor Castle, were shipped around the Commonwealth and planted in parks, schoolyards, cemeteries, and private yards to grow into what are known as Royal Oaks or Coronation Oaks.
News that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had reached the summit of Mount Everest arrived in Britain on Elizabeth's coronation day; the New Zealand, American, and British media dubbed it "a coronation gift for the new Queen".
- List of participants in Queen Elizabeth II coronation procession
- Proclamation of accession of Elizabeth II
- Coronation of the British monarch
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- Newsreel of the coronation from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Videos of the coronation on YouTube
- The story behind the televising of the Coronation Procession of Queen Elizabeth II
- National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE (archive films of local coronation celebrations throughout Scotland during 1953)
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