The Coronation 1953

On 2nd June 1953, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place, and the whole country joined in celebration. The Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey looking radiant, but there was a problem in the Abbey: the carpet…

On the 2nd June 1953, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place and the whole country joined in celebration.

This is a personal account of that momentous day:

“The only problem on the actual day was the typical British weather…it poured with rain!

But that didn’t stop people all over the country holding parties in the decorated streets of their towns and cities, and in London the roads were packed with people waiting to see the processions that took place.

The massed London crowds refused to be downhearted by the weather, and most of them had spent the night before on the crowded pavements, waiting for this special day to begin.

And for the first time ever, the ordinary people of Britain were going to be able to watch a monarch’s coronation in their own homes. It was announced earlier in the year that the crowning of the Queen would be televised, and the sales of TV sets rocketed.

Apparently there had been much controversy in the Government as to whether it would be ‘right and proper’ to televise such a solemn occasion. Several members of the Cabinet at the time, including Sir Winston Churchill, urged the Queen to spare herself the strain of the heat and glare of the cameras, by refusing to have the ceremony televised.

The Queen received this message coldly, and refused to listen to their protests. The young queen personally routed the Earl Marshall, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Winston Churchill and the Cabinet …she had made her decision!

Her motivation was clear, nothing must stand between her crowning and her people’s right to participate.

So, on June 2nd 1953 at 11 o’clock all over the country people settled down in front of their television sets. Compared to the present day ones, these sets were quite primitive. The pictures were black and white, as colour sets were not available then, and the tiny 14-inch screen was the most popular size.

The Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey looking radiant, but there was a problem in the Abbey: the carpet!

The carpet in the Abbey had been laid with pile running the wrong way, which meant that the Queen’s robes had trouble gliding easily over the carpet pile. The metal fringe on the Queen’s golden mantel caught in the pile of the carpet, and clawed her back when she tried to move forward. The Queen had to tell the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘Get me started’.

Another problem was that the holy oil, with which the Queen was to be anointed at the ceremony and which had been used at her father’s coronation, had been destroyed during a World War II bombing raid, and the firm who made it had gone out of business.

But fortunately, an elderly relative of the firm had kept a few ounces of the original base and a new batch was quickly made up.

The ‘Crowning Ceremony’ took place exactly as it is laid down in the history books, and when St. Edward’s Crown (this crown is only ever used for the actual crowning) was placed on her head the whole country, watching on their television sets, joined as one in celebration.

So, in spite of the rain, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was certainly a day to remember …’God save the Queen’.”

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The year that was… 1953

By Ellen Castelow

Coronation Year 1953 - how we lived in the early 1950s... There was virtually no vandalism, swearing in public places was an offence, and gentlemen still gave up their seats to ladies in buses and trams.

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