Wednesday June 2, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation
On this Day:
In 1953, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II occurred in Westminster Abbey, London, England.
The coronation of Elizabeth II took place on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey, London. Elizabeth II acceded to the throne at the age of 25 upon the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February 1952, being proclaimed queen by her privy and executive councils shortly afterwards. The coronation was held more than one year later because of the tradition of allowing an appropriate length of time to pass after a monarch dies before holding such festivals. It also gave the planning committees adequate time to make preparations for the ceremony. During the service, Elizabeth took an oath, was anointed with holy oil, invested with robes and regalia, and crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
Celebrations took place across the Commonwealth realms and a commemorative medal was issued. It has been the only British coronation to be fully televised; television cameras had not been allowed inside the abbey during her father’s coronation in 1937. Elizabeth’s was the fourth and last British coronation of the 20th century. It was estimated to have cost £1.57 million (c. £43,427,400 in 2019).
The one-day ceremony took 14 months of preparation: the first meeting of the Coronation Commission was in April 1952, under the chairmanship of the Queen’s husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Other committees were also formed, such as the Coronation Joint Committee and the Coronation Executive Committee, both chaired by the Duke of Norfolk who, by convention as Earl Marshal, had overall responsibility for the event. Many physical preparations and decorations along the route were the responsibility of David Eccles, Minister of Works. Eccles described his role and that of the Earl Marshal: “The Earl Marshal is the producer – I am the stage manager…”
The committees involved high commissioners from other Commonwealth realms, reflecting the international nature of the coronation; however, officials from other Commonwealth realms declined invitations to participate in the event because the governments of those countries considered the ceremony to be a religious rite unique to Britain. As Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent said at the time: “In my view the Coronation is the official enthronement of the Sovereign as Sovereign of the UK. We are happy to attend and witness the Coronation of the Sovereign of the UK but we are not direct participants in that function.” The Coronation Commission announced in June 1952 that the coronation would take place on 2 June 1953.
Norman Hartnell was commissioned by the Queen to design the outfits for all members of the royal family, including Elizabeth’s coronation gown. His design for the gown evolved through nine proposals, and the final version resulted from his own research and 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 and Ceylon, and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton and jute.
Elizabeth rehearsed for the occasion with her maids of honour. A sheet was used in place of the velvet train, and a formation of chairs stood in for the carriage. She also wore the Imperial State Crown while going about her daily business – at her desk, during tea, and while reading a newspaper – so that she could become accustomed to its feel and weight. Elizabeth took part in two full rehearsals at Westminster Abbey, on 22 and 29 May, though some sources claim that she attended one or “several” rehearsals. The Duchess of Norfolk usually stood in for the Queen at rehearsals.
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, and the event went ahead as scheduled. It was estimated to cost £1.57 million (c. £39,350,000 in 2016), which included stands along the procession route to accommodate 96,000 people, lavatories, street decorations, outfits, car hire, repairs to the state coach, and alterations to the Queen’s regalia.
Millions across Britain watched the coronation live on the BBC Television Service, and 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, and 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 and insisted the event take place before television cameras, as well as those filming with experimental 3D technology. The event was also filmed in colour, separately from the BBC’s black and white television broadcast, where an average of 17 people watched each small TV.
Elizabeth’s coronation was also the first major world event to be broadcast internationally on television. To make sure Canadians could see it on the same day, RAF Canberras flew BBC film recordings of the ceremony across the Atlantic Ocean to be broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the first non-stop flights between the United Kingdom and the Canadian mainland. At Goose Bay, Labrador, the first batch of film was transferred to a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-100 jet fighter for the further trip to Montreal. In all, three such flights were made as the coronation proceeded, with the first and second Canberras taking the second and third batches of film, respectively, to Montreal. The following day, a film was flown west to Vancouver, whose CBC Television affiliate had yet to sign on. The film was escorted by the RCMP to the Peace Arch Border Crossing, where it was then escorted by the Washington State Patrol to Bellingham, where it was shown as the inaugural broadcast of KVOS-TV, a new station whose signal reached into the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, allowing viewers there to see the coronation as well, though on a one-day delay.
US networks NBC and CBS made similar arrangements to have films flown in relays back to the United States for same-day broadcast, but used slower propeller-driven aircraft. The struggling ABC network arranged to re-transmit the CBC broadcast, taking the on-the-air signal from the CBC’s Toronto station and feeding the network from ABC’s affiliate in Buffalo, New York and, as a result, beat the other two networks to air by more than 90 minutes — and at considerably lower cost.
Although it did not as yet have full-time television service, film was also dispatched to Australia aboard a Qantas airliner, which arrived in Sydney in a record time of 53 hours 28 minutes. The worldwide television audience for the coronation was estimated to be 277 million.
All across the Queen’s realms, the rest of the Commonwealth, and in other parts of the world, coronation celebrations were held. The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal was also presented to thousands of recipients throughout the Queen’s realms and in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK, commemorative coins were issued. Three million bronze coronation medallions were ordered by the Canadian government, struck by the Royal Canadian Mint and distributed to schoolchildren across the country; the obverse showed Elizabeth’s effigy and the reverse the royal cypher above the word CANADA, all circumscribed by ELIZABETH II REGINA CORONATA MCMLIII.
As at the coronation of George VI, acorns shed from oaks in Windsor Great Park, near Windsor Castle, were shipped around the Commonwealth and planted in parks, school grounds, cemeteries and private gardens to grow into what are known as Royal Oaks or Coronation Oaks.
A plaque marking a tree planted in the United Kingdom to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
In London, the Queen hosted a coronation luncheon, for which the recipe coronation chicken was devised, and a fireworks show was mounted on Victoria Embankment. Further, street parties were mounted around the United Kingdom. The Coronation Cup football tournament was held at Hampden Park, Glasgow in May, and two weeks before the coronation, the children’s literary magazine Collins Magazine rebranded itself as The Young Elizabethan. News that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had reached the summit of Mount Everest arrived in Britain on Elizabeth’s coronation day; the New Zealand, American, and British media dubbed it “a coronation gift for the new Queen”.
Military tattoos, horse races, parades, and fireworks displays were mounted in Canada. The country’s governor general, Vincent Massey, proclaimed the day a national holiday and presided over celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where the Queen’s coronation speech was broadcast and her personal royal standard flown from the Peace Tower. Later, a public concert was held on Parliament Hill and the Governor General hosted a ball at Rideau Hall. In Newfoundland, 90,000 boxes of sweets were given to children, some having theirs delivered by Royal Canadian Air Force drops, and in Quebec, 400,000 people turned out in Montreal, some 100,000 at Jeanne-Mance Park alone. A multicultural show was put on at Exhibition Place in Toronto, square dances and exhibitions took place in the Prairie provinces and in Vancouver the Chinese community performed a public lion dance. On the Korean Peninsula, Canadian soldiers serving in the Korean War acknowledged the day by firing red, white, and blue coloured smoke shells at the enemy and drinking rum rations (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Queen Elizabeth visited an Edinburgh hospital recently…
She enters a ward full of patients, and notices that they’re all dressed in street clothes and have no obvious sign of injury or illness. The Queen approaches a patient and greets him.
The patient replies:
“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here, My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer.”
The Queen is confused, but smiles and moves on to greet the next patient.
The patient responds:
“Some hae meat an’ canna eat, And some wad eat tha’ want it, But we hae meat an’ we can eat, so let the Lord be thankit.”
Even more confused, and smiling even more broadly, the Queen moves on to the next patient who immediately begins to chant:
“My love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June; My love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune.”
Now very confused, the Queen turns to the accompanying doctor and asks, “Is this a psychiatric ward?”
“No, Your Majesty,” replies the doctor. “This is the serious Burns unit.”
Second, a Song:
What possibly could be more British than Queen Elizabeth II? Well…Bond, James Bond…perhaps…and if you put the two of them together…???
The James Bond series focuses on a fictional British Secret Service agent created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short-story collections. Since Fleming’s death in 1964, eight other authors have written authorised Bond novels or novelisations: Kingsley Amis, Christopher Wood, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz. The latest novel is Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz, published in May 2018. Additionally Charlie Higson wrote a series on a young James Bond, and Kate Westbrook wrote three novels based on the diaries of a recurring series character, Moneypenny.
The character—also known by the code number 007 (pronounced “double-O-seven”)—has also been adapted for television, radio, comic strip, video games and film. The films are the longest continually running film series of all time and have grossed over US$7.04 billion in total, making it the sixth-highest-grossing film series to date, which started in 1962 with Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as Bond. As of 2021, there have been twenty-four films in the Eon Productions series. The most recent Bond film, Spectre (2015), stars Daniel Craig in his fourth portrayal of Bond; he is the sixth actor to play Bond in the Eon series. There have also been two independent productions of Bond films: Casino Royale (a 1967 spoof starring David Niven) and Never Say Never Again (a 1983 remake of an earlier Eon-produced film, 1965’s Thunderball, both starring Connery). In 2015 the series was estimated to be worth $19.9 billion, making James Bond one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.
The Bond films are renowned for a number of features, including the musical accompaniment, with the theme songs having received Academy Award nominations on several occasions, and two wins. Other important elements which run through most of the films include Bond’s cars, his guns, and the gadgets with which he is supplied by Q Branch. The films are also noted for Bond’s relationships with various women, who are sometimes referred to as “Bond girls” (per Wikipedia).
Here is Daniel Craig in his role as British secret agent James Bond as he accompanies Her Majesty The Queen to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II
Dr. Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada writes in response to the Scotch Whiskey Smile:
Dr. Frank Fowlie”
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
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