Elizabeth II’s Remarkable Coronation Ceremony: History and Facts
Elizabeth, at 25, was catapulted unto the British throne after the death of her father, King George VI, on the 6th of February 1952. The king was 56. At the time that she received news of her father’s demise, Elizabeth was abroad, away on royal duties in Kenya.
On the 2nd of June 1953, Princess Elizabeth, at age 27, was formally crowned with regal power and dominion over Britain. The coronation ceremony of 1953, which took place at the famous Westminster Abbey, was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Unknown to many people, the coronation service of Queen Elizabeth II was graced by representatives and officials from a whopping 129 nations. What are some other notable facts about Elizabeth II’s coronation?
Below, we present all the important facts that you need to know about Queen Elizabeth II’s remarkable coronation ceremony.
The birth of a new era
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was to symbolize a new era in British history. To this day, it is considered the biggest royal event of the 20th century. The coronation was aimed at boosting the confidence the public had in the monarchy. This came on the backdrop of Edward VIII abdication in 1936.
Elizabeth’s grandmother, Mary, hoped-for stability in the crown in the wake of the just-ended World War II. Queen Mary, who was a traditionalist, had a great deal of influence on the throne and how the ceremony was done.
Queen Mary’s expectation versus Prince Philip’s
Queen Mary, then 81, wanted a monarchy of stability, continuity, and probity. Her goal was to maintain their traditions. Prince Philip, Elizabeth’s husband, on the other hand, wanted technological changes. Mary sided with the old fashion style while Philip pushed for slight reforms, thus, a modern style for the coronation.
The Royal Coronation Robe and Coronation Bouquet
Another fact about Elizabeth II’s coronation is that the robe was designed by Sir Norman Hartnell. The monarch’s robe was of white satin. It also had the emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth embroidered in gold and silver thread.
Elizabeth’s husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, donned a Navy attire to the ceremony. During the ceremony, Philip was clothed in a coronet and a duke’s robe in addition.
With regard to the coronation bouquet, organizers picked the best orchids and lilies from the five main parts of the UK: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man.
Organizers of the Coronation
Tradition demands that the Duke of Norfolk be the one who organizes the coronation ceremony in Britain. At the time, it was the 16th Duke of Norfolk, Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-Howard.
However, in the case of Elizabeth II, Prince Philip was made a central figure in the organization of the coronation – he was the chairman of the organizing committee. Philip did this alongside his secretary, Mike Parker.
16 Months of Preparation
Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony took place after a period of more than a year. Before the new monarch was crowned, the royal house decided to observe a period of not less than a year after George VI’s death. This gave the house adequate time to grieve and prepare for the coronation ceremony.
There were a lot of expectations from the nation. This was because the nation was still trying to get its act together, post the Second World War.
It would interest you to know that Elizabeth had already started to carry out her duties as head of the royal family during those 16 months. She was even present at Parliament in November 1952 to conduct the State Opening of Parliament.
Death of Queen Mary
Furthermore, during the preparation, Queen Mary, the grandmother of the queen, died on the 24th of March 1953. But this did not affect the planning of the event. Queen Mary had stated that her death shouldn’t interrupt the ceremony. Never in the history of Britain had a queen witnessed her granddaughter rise to inherit the throne. Mary was the first.
Live Broadcast Deliberations
Another fact about Elizabeth II’s coronation was the manner in which a new medium of broadcasting was introduced. Initially, the idea of broadcasting the coronation ceremony live wasn’t welcomed by Elizabeth, the royal house and the British government.
It was the 1950s and television was already a big communication medium. Philip argued that televising the ceremony was a good way to break the class barrier that existed. The British culture and traditions have long had a system where the coronation of monarchs was something that only the elite in the society could see.
Elizabeth, the queen-mother, the cabinet, and the organizing committee were not in favor of Philip’s idea to make public the affairs of the royal coronation. Sir Winston Churchill even maintained that the coronation ceremony was a very sacred event and such had to be treated with the utmost reverence. He went on to say that should cameras be allowed into Westminster Abbey, the ceremony would be relegated to a “theatrical performance.”
In the end, Elizabeth sided with Philip. She gave the go-ahead for the BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) to televise the coronation ceremony live.
Guests and Dignitaries
There were lots of Commonwealth troops coming into the United Kingdom; members of the Queen’s family, foreign royals, heads of states, and other representatives of foreign states were present. Prince Philip, who was part of the Royal Navy, decided to get a helicopter from the Royal Navy. He went along with his troops visiting the guests from around the British Empire as well as the commonwealth.
All in all, a total of 8251 guests attended Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony. It has also been estimated that about 129 countries and territories around the world sent a representative to the ceremony.
Prince Philip’s role that day
Philip was the first among equals during the ceremony. He was among the three royal dukes. The other two were: Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. The three royal dukes paid homage and allegiance to the queen during the event.
The Royal Gold State Coach
After the arrival of several important dignitaries and monarchs from all over the world, Elizabeth and Philip rode together in the royal golden coach, from their official residence – Buckingham Palace – to Westminster Abbey. The coach was drawn by 8 horses. The names of the horses are even known. They are McCreery, Tovey, Cunningham, Noah, Snow White, Tedder, Tripparary and Eisenhower.
The Gold State Coach that Elizabeth rode in was first used by George III (reign, 1760-1820). George III commissioned it in 1760, just after the Seven Year War with France. George IV was the first monarch to use it for a coronation ceremony.
Outwardly, the 24-by-12 feet high coach looks extremely gorgeous; however, riding in it can be excruciatingly uncomfortable. After the ride, Queen Elizabeth II described it as “not very comfortable”.
Location and duration of the Coronation
The event took place at the usual setting, Westminster Abbey in London. For well over 1000 years, Westminster has been the official location for the coronation of British monarchs. The first coronation service held in Westminster took place in 1066. In Elizabeth’s case, she became the 39th British monarch to be crowned in Westminster.
Additionally, Elizabeth became the 6th queen to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. The other five queens were: Mary I (Mary Tudor, also known as “Bloody Mary”); Elizabeth I; Mary II; Queen Anne; and Queen Victoria.
The actual duration of the coronation lasted for about 3 hours. The service began at 11:15 am (GMT).
The Estimated cost of the Coronation
The total cost involved in the organization of Elizabeth II’s ceremony was about 1.57 million Euros.
The Holy Ceremony and the Foot Liners
Throwing more light on the coronation, the monarchy and the ceremony at that stage were considered a state of religion and a religious affair respectively. Therefore, the sailors, the soldiers, the airmen and women who were going to line the route were ordered to refrain from immoral activities for at least 48 hours before lining the route of the procession. The essence of doing this was to avoid contamination of the royal affair.
Elizabeth II’s Coronation Stages and Symbols of Authority
The first stage in the coronation ceremony was the recognition stage. This was followed by the oath, and then the anointing, the investiture, the enthronement, and then the homage. The oil that Archbishop used to anoint the queen was made of orange, cinnamon, musk, roses, and ambergris.
The four symbols of authority that were handed over to the monarch were: the orb, the scepter with the cross, the rod of mercy, and the coronation ring. Before those symbols of authority were presented to the queen, the golden spurs were handed to the queen by the Lord Great Chamberlain. The jeweled sword, the armills, and the golden bracelets came from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
After all, that was done, the queen put on the Gold Robe Royal. Subsequently, she was handed the orb, the coronation ring, the glove, and then the scepter. The coronation ring was placed on the fourth finger of her right hand. This tradition began during the coronation of William IV.
Coronation chair and the crown
The chair that the queen sat in for the coronation is called the St Edward’s Chair. It has been in use since Edward I in 1300. Likewise, the golden coronation crown, which weighs at exactly 4 pounds and 12 ounces, is called the St. Edward’s Crown.
27 Million views in the UK alone
For the first time in history, the coronation was going live for all to watch. The nation’s premium broadcaster, the BBC, was heavily involved. They made sure to cover every aspect of the coronation ceremony. Furthermore, there were about 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers present. These journalists came from about 92 nations.
As a result, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II experienced unprecedented access to the public. The only part of the ceremony that wasn’t shown was when the Archbishop of Canterbury poured oil on the disrobed queen.
An estimated 11 million people in the UK alone listened to the coronation service on their radio sets. This unprecedented access meant that the mystery of the sovereignty was going public. Owing to several media houses’ involvement, over a million people from across the world either watched it or tuned in to listen. had an unprecedented view of the whole event.
Cecil Beaton was recommended by Philip to take a photograph of the ceremony. Cecil Beaton was Philip’s favorite photographer, and to him, he took better and nice photos. At the end of the coronation, Cecil was appreciated by all for producing the most memorable official photo.
Members from the military
The entire ceremony required about 30,000 military and police officers from the UK as well as the Commonwealth. This includes personnel from the Royal Navy, the Army, the RAF, and the reserve and administrative troops.
Trip Back to Buckingham Palace
As tradition demands, the Queen wore the Imperial State Crown for the trip back to Buckingham Palace. She was also in the beautifully designed Purple Robe of Estate.
After Her Majesty made her way to the Buckingham Palace, she, along with selected members of the royal family, stood on the balcony to wave to her new subjects.
Elizabeth II’s coronation service was an extremely secured, but at the same time colorful, procession – certainly one that will be talked about and revisited for centuries to come.