Updated: Jul 2
2 June 1953
Image: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21 April 1926) is the Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth was born in Mayfair, London, as the first child of the Duke & Duchess of York (later King George VI & Queen Elizabeth). Her father ascended the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from that date she was the heir presumptive. Elizabeth was educated privately at home & began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece & Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; & Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
When her father died in February 1952, Elizabeth became the head of the Commonwealth & queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, & Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Elizabeth has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, & the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 & 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence, & as realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, & Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics. She became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee (65 years as Queen). She is the longest-lived & longest-reigning British monarch. She is the longest-serving female head of state in world history, & the world's oldest living monarch, longest-reigning current monarch, & oldest & longest-serving current head of state.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II as monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Union of South Africa, Pakistan & Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) took place on 2 June 1953.
Elizabeth ascended the thrones of these countries at age 25, upon the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952, & was proclaimed queen by her various privy & executive councils shortly afterwards.
The coronation didn't take place for more than a year after the kings death, because of the tradition that such a festival was inappropriate during the period of mourning that followed his death.
In the ceremony itself, Elizabeth swore an oath to uphold the laws of her nations & to govern the Church of England. Celebrations took place & a commemorative medal was issued throughout the Commonwealth realms. At midnight on 2 June 1953, the newly crowned 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, still wearing the Imperial State Crown containing four pearls believed to have been Elizabeth I’s earrings, made her final appearance of the day on the floodlit Buckingham Palace balcony.
Below, the crowds carried on celebrating after witnessing a fabulous state ritual & a two-hour procession through London’s streets. Millions more had watched on television, thanks to the Royal Family. Despite being advised against it by Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, Prime Minister Winston Churchill & others, Elizabeth was adamant that all her subjects should have the chance to see her crowned.
There was an added influence. Some months earlier, dowager Queen Mary’s doctors had told her that she was too ill to attend the service, & it was she who helped persuade her granddaughter to go along with the broadcasters’ wishes. In the event, Elizabeth's grandmother Queen Mary had died on 24 March 1953, having stated in her will that her death should not affect the planning of the coronation, & the event went ahead as scheduled.
As she rode in the Gold State Coach to Westminster Abbey, the Queen wore a satin dress designed & made by Norman Hartnell, embroidered with emblems of the United Kingdom & the Commonwealth in gold & silver thread & encrusted with seed pearls & crystals.
She carried a bouquet of orchids & lilies of the valley from England, stephanotis from Scotland, carnations from Northern Ireland & the Isle of Man, & orchids from Wales.
On her head was the George IV State Diadem, which also incorporates national symbols – the rose, shamrock & thistle – in the arrangement of its 1,333 diamonds & 169 pearls.
In previous coronations, the pile of the carpet in the Abbey had caused problems. For George VI it was so thick – as the Queen remembered – that some of the more elderly nobility could barely move themselves & their robes across it. Although the carpet pile chosen for Elizabeth’s day was of the correct thickness, it had been laid the wrong way round, so inhibiting the flow of her train. ‘Get me started!’ she was forced to signal to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
After the Coronation on 2 June 1953 the Queen spoke;
"Throughout this memorable day I have been uplifted & sustained by the knowledge that your thoughts & prayers were with me.
I have been aware all the time that my peoples, spread far & wide throughout every continent & ocean in the world were united to support me in the task to which I have now been dedicated with such solemnity.
The ceremonies you have seen today are ancient & some of their origins are veiled in the mists of the past.
But their spirit & their meaning shine through the ages, never perhaps, more brightly than now.
I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine.
Throughout all my life & with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust."
Leading fashion designer Norman Hartnell was commissioned by the Queen to design the outfits for all members of the royal family, including Elizabeth's own coronation gown. Hartnell's design for the gown evolved through nine proposals, & the final version resulted from his own research & numerous meetings with the Queen: a white silk dress embroidered with floral emblems of the countries of the Commonwealth at the time: the Tudor rose of England, Scottish thistle, Welsh leek, shamrock for Northern Ireland, wattle of Australia, maple leaf of Canada, the New Zealand silver fern, South Africa's protea, two lotus flowers for India & Ceylon, & Pakistan's wheat, cotton & jute.
Millions across Britain watched the coronation live on the BBC Television Service, & many purchased or rented television sets for the event. The coronation of the Queen was the FIRST to be televised in full; the BBC's cameras had not been allowed inside Westminster Abbey for her father's coronation in 1937, & had covered only the procession outside. There had been considerable debate within the British Cabinet on the subject, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill against the idea; but, Elizabeth refused his advice on this matter & insisted the event take place before television cameras. The event was also filmed in colour, separately from the BBC's black & white television broadcast. The worldwide television audience for the coronation was estimated to be 277 million!
The event cost an estimated £1.57 million (c. £38,680,000 in 2016, & included stands along the procession route to accommodate 96,000 people, lavatories, street decorations, outfits, car hire, repairs to the state coach, & alterations to the Queen's regalia.
Along a route lined with sailors, soldiers, & airmen & women from across the British Empire & Commonwealth, guests & officials passed in a procession before an estimated three million spectators packed the streets of London, & others having access to specially built stands & scaffolding along the route.
The coronation procession included foreign royalty & heads of state riding to Westminster Abbey in various carriages. The first royal coach left Buckingham Palace & moved down the Mall, which was filled with flag-waving & 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, & towards Westminster Abbey in the Gold State Coach. Attached to the shoulders of her dress, the Queen wore the Robe of State, (6-yards/5.5 metre 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 & the Duchess of Devonshire to carry.
Image: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020.
The returning procession followed a route that was 5 miles (8 kilometres) in length, & passed through Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, & down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. 29,000 service personnel from Britain & across the Commonwealth marched in a procession that was two miles (3.2 kilometres) long & took 45 minutes to pass any given point. A further 15,800 lined the route. The parade was led by Colonel Burrows of the War Office staff & four regimental bands. Then came the colonial contingents, then troops from the Commonwealth realms, followed by the Royal Air Force, the British Army, the Royal Navy, & finally the Household Brigade. Behind the marching troops was a carriage procession led by the rulers of the British protectorates, including the Queen of Tonga, the Commonwealth prime ministers, the princes & princesses of the blood royal, & the Queen Mother. Preceded by the heads of the British Armed Forces on horseback, the Gold State Coach was escorted by the Yeomen of the Guard & the Household Cavalry & was followed by the Queen's aides-de-camp*.
*An aide de camp literally means helper in the [military] camp) a personal assistant or secretary to a person of high rank, usually a senior military, police or government officer, or to a member of a royal family or a head of state.
Westminster Abbey was opened at 6 am on Coronation Day to the approximately 8,000 guests invited from across the Commonwealth of Nations; more prominent individuals, such as members of the Queen's family & foreign royalty, the peers of the United Kingdom, heads of state, Members of Parliament from the Queen's various legislatures arrived after 8:30 a.m.
The Coronation service;
St Edward's Crown, was 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 & Bishops Assistant (Durham & Bath & Wells) of the Church of England, in their copes & mitres, waited outside the Great West Door for the arrival of the Queen.
When Her Majesty arrived at about 11:00 am, she encountered friction between her robes & the carpet that caused her difficulty moving forward, & she said to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, "Get me started!”
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 & through the choir to the stage, as the choirs sang "I was glad", an imperial setting of Psalm 122, vv. 1–3, 6, & 7 by Sir Hubert Parry.
As the Queen prayed at & then seated herself on the Chair of Estate to the south of the altar, the Bishops carried in the religious paraphernalia, the bible, paten & chalice, & the peers holding the coronation regalia handed them 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.
The Queen moved to stand before King Edward's Chair (the 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 Marquess of Cholmondeley), Lord High Constable of England (the Viscount Alanbrooke) & Earl Marshal of the United Kingdom (the Duke of Norfolk), all led by the Garter Principal King of Arms (George Bellew), then 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 & 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.
Once again the Queen sat on the Chair of Estate, then took the Coronation Oath as administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In this lengthy oath, the Queen swore to govern each of her countries according to their respective laws & customs, to mete out law & justice with mercy, to uphold Protestantism in the United Kingdom & protect the Church of England & preserve its bishops & clergy.
She then moved to the altar where she stated, "The things which I have here promised, I will perform, & keep. So help me God", before she kissed the Bible & put 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 & presented it to the Queen again, saying,
Image: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
“Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law & the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life & government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God”.
Elizabeth returned the book to Pitt-Watson, who gave it back to the Dean of Westminster. The communion service was carried out, with prayers by both the clergy & Elizabeth, Fisher asking, "O God... Grant unto this thy servant Elizabeth, our Queen, the spirit of wisdom & 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, & Christian devotion may continue in peace", before reading various passages from the First Epistle of Peter, Psalms, & the Gospel of Matthew.
The choir sang "Zadok the Priest" (written by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727), as the Queen was annointed; the Queen's jewellery & crimson cape were removed by the Earl of Ancaster & the Mistress of the Robes, the Duchess of Devonshire &, 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 the Dean of Westminster, made a cross on the Queen's forehead with holy oil made from the same base as had been used in the coronation of her father. The Queen's insisted, the actual anointing ceremony was not televised.
From the altar, the Dean passed to the Lord Great Chamberlain the spurs, which were presented to the Queen & 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, & 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 & the Sovereign's Orb, followed by the Queen's Ring, the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross & the Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove. With the first two items on & in her right hand & the latter in her left, Queen Elizabeth was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the crowd chanting "God save the queen!" three times at the exact moment St Edward's Crown touched the monarch's head. The princes & peers gathered then put on their coronets & a 21-gun salute was fired from the Tower of London.
Did You Know? the orb is decorated with 375 pearls, 365 diamonds, 18 rubies, 9 emeralds, 9 sapphires, 1 amethyst & 1 piece of glass. The orb is 14.6 cm (5.7 in) in diameter & weighs 1.07 kg (2.4 lb).
Elizabeth moved to the throne & the Archbishop of Canterbury & all the Bishops offered to her their fealty, after which, while the choir sang, the peers of the United Kingdom—led by the royal peers: the Queen's husband; Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; & Prince Edward, Duke of Kent—each proceeded, in order of precedence, to pay their personal homage & 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!" After removing all her royal regalia, Elizabeth knelt & took the communion, including a general confession & absolution, &, along with the congregation, recited the Lord's Prayer.
Did You Know? The Crown Jewels are part of the Royal Collection. As with Royal palaces, ownership is regarded as inalienable & passes from one monarch to the next. In practice it is unlikely the Crown Jewels will ever be sold, nor are they insured against loss, & are officially priceless.
Image: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
Now wearing the Imperial State Crown & holding the Sceptre with the Cross & the Orb, & as the gathered guests sang "God Save the Queen", Elizabeth left Westminster Abbey through the nave & apse, out the Great West Door.
The director of music for the coronation, was the organist & master of the choristers at the abbey, William McKie, who had been in charge of music at the royal wedding in 1947. McKie convened an advisory committee with Arnold Bax & Sir Ernest Bullock, who had directed the music for the previous coronation (George VI in 1937).
Tradition required that Handel's "Zadok the Priest" & Parry's "I was glad" were included amongst the anthems. Other choral works included were the 16th century "Rejoice in the Lord alway" & Samuel Sebastian Wesley's "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace". Another tradition was that new work be commissioned from the leading composers of the day: Ralph Vaughan Williams composed a new motet "O Taste & See", William Walton composed a setting for the "Te Deum", & the Canadian composer Healey Willan wrote an anthem "O Lord our Governor".Four new orchestral pieces were planned; Arthur Bliss composed "Processional"; William Walton, "Orb & Sceptre"; & Arnold Bax, "Coronation March". Edward Elgar's "Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1 in D" was played immediately before Bax's march at the end of the ceremony. An new idea, at the suggestion of Vaughan Williams, was the inclusion of a hymn in which the congregation could participate. This controversial addition & was not included in the programme until the Queen had been consulted & found to be in favour; Vaughan Williams wrote an elaborate arrangement of the traditional Scottish metrical psalm, "Old 100th", which included military trumpet fanfares & was sung before the communion. Gordon Jacob wrote a choral arrangement of God Save the Queen, in conjunction with trumpet fanfares.
The choir for the coronation was a combination of the choirs of Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, the Chapel Royal, & Saint George's Chapel, Windsor. Added to this, the Royal School of Church Music conducted auditions to find twenty boy trebles from parish church choirs representing the various regions of the United Kingdom. Along with twelve trebles chosen from various British cathedral choirs, the selected boys spent the month beforehand training at Addington Palace. The final complement of choristers comprised 182 boy trebles, 37 male altos, 62 tenors & 67 basses. Together with a full orchestra, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, the total number of musicians was 480!
Family of the Queen
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Elizabeth's mother
The Duke of Edinburgh, Elizabeth's husband and consort
The Duke of Cornwall, Elizabeth's son & heir
The Princess Margaret, Elizabeth's sister
The Princess Royal, Elizabeth's paternal aunt
The Earl and Countess of Harewood, Elizabeth's first cousin & his wife
The Hon. Gerald Lascelles, Elizabeth's first cousin
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Elizabeth's paternal uncle & his wife
Prince William of Gloucester, Elizabeth's first cousin
Prince Richard of Gloucester, Elizabeth's first cousin
The Duchess of Kent, Elizabeth's aunt, widow of her paternal uncle
The Duke of Kent, Elizabeth's first cousin
Princess Alexandra of Kent, Elizabeth's first cousin
Prince Michael of Kent, Elizabeth's first cousin
The Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Elizabeth's second cousin, once removed & his wife (The Duke of Edinburgh's uncle & aunt)
Lady Pamela Mountbatten, Elizabeth's third cousin (The Duke of Edinburgh's first cousin)
The Marquess of Milford Haven, Elizabeth's third cousin (The Duke of Edinburgh's first cousin)
Princess Marie Louise, Elizabeth's first cousin, twice removed
Lady Patricia and Sir Alexander Ramsay, Elizabeth's first cousin, twice removed & her husband
Alexander Ramsay, Elizabeth's second cousin, once removed
The Marchioness of Carisbrooke, wife of Elizabeth's first cousin, twice removed
Adolphus, Marquess of Cambridge's family:
The Marquess & Marchioness of Cambridge, Elizabeth's first cousin, once removed
Lady Mary and Peter Whitney, Elizabeth's second cousin & her husband
The Duchess & Duke of Beaufort, Elizabeth's first cousin, once removed & her husband
Lady Helena Gibbs, Elizabeth's first cousin, once removed
The Earl of Athlone & Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, Elizabeth's granduncle & first cousin, twice removed
Lady May & Sir Henry Abel Smith, Elizabeth's first cousin, once removed
Richard Abel Smith, Elizabeth's second cousin
Family of the Duke of Edinburgh
Princess Andrew of Greece & Denmark (Mother of the Duke of Edinburgh)
The Prince & Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Brother-in-law & Sister)
Prince Kraft of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Nephew)
Princess Beatrix of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Niece)
Prince Georg of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Nephew)
Prince Rupprecht of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Nephew)
Prince Albrecht of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Nephew)
The Margrave & Margravine of Baden (Brother-in-law & Sister)
Princess Margarita of Baden (Niece)
The Hereditary Prince of Baden (Nephew)
Prince Ludwig of Baden (Nephew)
The Prince & Princess George William of Hanover (Brother-in-law & Sister)
Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse (Niece)
Princess Dorothea of Hesse (Niece)
Prince Karl of Hesse (Nephew)
Prince Rainer of Hesse (Nephew)
Princess Clarissa of Hesse (Niece)
Among the foreign royals in attendance were;
Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa al Khalifah, the Ruler of Bahrain
Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah, the Ruler of Kuwait
The Sultan of Brunei, Omar Ali Saifuddien III
The Queen of Tonga., Sālote Tupou III
The Crown Prince, later king Olav V & Crown Princess of Norway (representing the King of Norway)
Princess Astrid of Norway
Prince and Princess George of Greece & Denmark (the Prince was the uncle of Duke of Edinburgh; representing the King of Greece)
Prince & Princess Axel of Denmark (representing the King of Denmark)
Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland (representing the King of Sweden)
The Prince of Liège, later Albert II (representing the King of the Belgians)
The Prince of the Netherlands (representing the Queen of the Netherlands)
The Crown Prince of Laos (representing the King of Laos)
Prince Himalayapratrap Vir Vikram Shah & Princess Himalaya (representing the King of Nepal)
Hereditary Prince Bao Long (representing Bảo Đại, the Chief of State of Vietnam)
The Crown Prince of Japan (representing the Emperor of Japan)
The Crown Prince of Ethiopia (representing the Emperor of Ethiopia)
Prince Fahad Ibn Abdul Aziz (representing the King of Saudi Arabia)
Shah Wali Khan (representing the King of Afghanistan)
Crown Prince Abdul Ilah (representing the King of Iraq)
Prince Sisowath Monireth (representing the King of Cambodia)
Prince Chula Chakrabongse & Princess Chula (representing the King of Thailand)
Prince Saif Al Islam Al Hassan (representing the King of Yemen)
The Nabil Suleyman Daoud (representing the King of Egypt)
The Hereditary Grand Duke & Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (representing the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg)
Prince Karl Alfred of Liechtenstein & Princess Agnes (representing the Prince of Liechtenstein)
Prince Pierre of Monaco (representing the Prince of Monaco)
Members of non-reigning monarchs;
Michael I of Romania & Queen Anne of Romania
Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona & Infanta Maria Mercedes, Countess of Barcelona
Prince Eugène of Ligne
Photo: Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Coronation portrait, June 1953, London, England. Credit: Library & Archives Canada/K-0000047
Before 1066, the Anglo-Saxon monarchs used several locations for their coronations, at Kingston upon Thames; Edward the Elder (900); Æthelstan (925); possibly Edmund I (939); & Eadred (946). Edward the Confessor's coronation (1043) was held at Winchester cathedral. Several coronation 'places' are unrecorded, such as Alfred the Great; Edgar the Peaceful; Æthelred the Unready & Cnut the Great.
Since the two coronations in 1066 (Harold II then William the Conqueror), all coronations of English & British monarchs (except Edward V & Edward VIII, who were never crowned) have taken place in Westminster Abbey.
In 1216, Henry III could not be crowned in London when he came to the throne, because the French prince Louis had taken control of the London, so he was crowned in Gloucester Cathedral. This coronation was deemed by Pope Honorius III to be improper, & a further coronation was held in Westminster Abbey on 17 May 1220.
King Edward's Chair (or St Edward's Chair), the throne on which English & British sovereigns have been seated at the moment of crowning, is now housed within the Abbey in St George's Chapel near the West Door, & has been used at every coronation since 1308 (Edward II).
From 1301 to 1996 (except for a short time in 1950 when the stone was temporarily stolen by Scottish nationalists), the coronation chair also housed the Stone of Scone upon which the kings of Scots are crowned. Although the Stone is now kept in Scotland, in Edinburgh Castle, it is intended that the Stone will be returned to St Edward's Chair for use during future coronation ceremonies.
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