On 2 June 1953 Queen Elizabeth II took her coronation oath in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Since her accession on 6 February 1952 aged 25, following the death of her father King George VI, the day had been planned in great detail.
The Earl Marshal, the 16th Duke of Norfolk, was responsible for organising the Coronation and the ceremony was directed by the Garter Principal King of Arms, Hon. Sir George Bellew. A procession of 250 representatives from Crown, Church and State entered the Abbey, joining over 8000 guests, including prime ministers and heads of state from around the Commonwealth.
The Queen’s white satin dress, exquisitely embroidered and encrusted with jewels, was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell. The Coronation service began at 11.15 am and lasted almost three hours. Music included Sir William Walton’s ‘Orb and Sceptre’ Coronation March. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher (later Baron Fisher of Lambeth), concluded the ceremony by placing St Edward’s Crown on the Queen’s head.
Three million people lined the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the new monarch in the golden state coach. During the two-hour procession from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace Queen Salote of Tonga won the hearts of the crowds by refusing to raise the roof of her carriage despite the heavy rainfall.
An estimated 27 million people in Britain watched the ceremony on television and 11 million listened on the radio. The BBC’s televising of the Coronation, produced and directed by Peter Dimmock, was a breakthrough in the history of outside broadcasting. The commentator was Richard Dimbleby.
After an appearance by the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, guests were treated to Coronation Chicken, a dish newly created by Constance Spry who also advised on floral arrangements.
Official photographs were taken by Sir Cecil Beaton, and the artist Feliks Topolski was commissioned to produce a 30 metre frieze as a permanent record of the occasion. Terence Cuneo created a painting of the Coronation ceremony, and James Gunn painted a state portrait of the Queen in Coronation robes.
1. Foreign journalist Jacqueline Bouvier was in London in 1953 to report on the Coronation. By which name was she later known?
2. Which sovereign attending the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 had already travelled to London for the previous coronations of King George V in 1911 and King George VI in 1937?
1. Jackie Kennedy, wife of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
2. The Sultan of Zanzibar
3. They had reached the summit of Mount Everest
4. Both attended Harrow School