The Queen's Coronation
Elizabeth's coronation took place some 15 months after her
accession, which followed her father's death, aged 56. Her
coronation, on 2 June 1953, with its ancient pageantry, ceremonial
and mystical rituals, was freighted with symbolic
Elizabeth's white satin gown, designed by Norman Hartnell, used subtle shades of pink, blue, yellow and green to incorporate the emblems of Britain and the Commonwealth into the design: the Tudor rose, the thistle, leek, shamrock, the Canadian maple leaf, the Australian wattle flower, the fern of New Zealand, the protea of South Africa, the wheat and jute of Pakistan and the lotus of Ceylon. On her way to the Abbey she wore the ermine-edged Robe of State of Crimson Velvet. On her return she wore the Imperial Robe of Purple Velvet, lined with white silk and ermine-edged.
Coronation day, 2 June 1953, was grey, cool and drizzly. But the streets of London were crowded with millions of onlookers, who gazed at the stately procession of royalty, peers, ambassadors, diplomats and dignitaries, who started to rrive at Westminster Abbey from 7am onwards. There were a total of 8,251 guests.
At 11.20am the Queen arrived at the Abbey in the state coach, accompanied by Prince Philip, resplendent in the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, with gold bullion epaulettes and Garter Star. The Queen walked down the aisle to the strains of Parry's 'I was Glad', and shouts of 'Vivat Regina'.
The ceremony, performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has remained fundamentally unchanged over the last thousand years. The core of the ceremony was the recognition of the sovereign by the assembled congregation, the administration of the Coronation Oath, the anointing with holy oil, the investiture with the royal regalia and the actual crowning. Key moments in the historic service were marked by the robing in ritual garments - a simple white over-dress, the golden supertunic and the Dalmatic Robe.
The St. Edward's Crown, made for the coronation of Charles II, was placed on the Queen's head at 12.34pm, and the acclamation of the congregation was matched by the firing of canon salutes from the Tower of London. Elizabeth exited the Abbey at 2.53pm, wearing the Imperial State Crown.
Britain was still plunged in post-war austerity, and the coronation was the excuse for a nationwide party.
London was en fête. Stands for spectators were constructed all
along The Mall, which was adorned with triumphal arches and vast
metalwork crowns. It is estimated that 3 million people lined the
ceremonial route on Coronation Day. Six hours and twenty minutes
after she had set out, the Queen returned to Buckingham Palace. She
appeared on the balcony, to ecstatic shouts from the crowds,
wearing the magnificent Imperial State crown.
The RAF marked the occasion with a flypast down The Mall and Victoria Embankment was lit up with a magnificent firework display. All over the country there were street parties, village fêtes, bonfires and services of commemoration.