‘We had never seen anything like it’: How the Queen's coronation is remembered 67 years on

·5-min read
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on the day of their coronation, Buckingham Palace, 1953. (Colorised black and white print). Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at the coronation in 1953. (Getty Images)

Nearly seven decades ago, thousands of people camped overnight and waited in typical British drizzle for a glimpse of the Queen as she was crowned.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the anniversary of the coronation has gone by quietly. Westminster Abbey’s bells are silent, and the day will be marked with prayers by resident clergy.

Her Majesty will likely be happy to have horse racing return though, and her coronation day was marked with her horse, First Receiver, winning the 3.55 race at Kempton Park in Surrey.

Some of those who watched the Queen’s history-making coronation in 1953 have shared their memories with Yahoo UK as the monarch marks 67 years on the throne.

Joan Hume, 93, who lives in London, said: “We went up and saw a dress rehearsal for it - the carriage and everything, all the footmen.

“The Queen wasn’t in it, but we were allowed to sit in the stands.

“I was impressed, all the horses and soldiers, it was amazing. It was something that you do not forget.

“We had first class seats - I remember we had to get up there early.”

Read more: Queen seen in public for first time since coronavirus lockdown began

UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01:  Queen ELIZABETH, the Duke of EDINBURGH, the QUEEN mother ELIZABETH, Princess MARGARET, Prince CHARLES and Princess ANNE posing with other members of the royal family.  (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Princess Anne and other members of the Royal Family. (Getty Images)
The Colonial Contingents of the armed service march along Whitehall following the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, 2nd June 1953. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
The Colonial Contingents march along Whitehall were thousands of people lined to see them. (Getty Images)

On the day itself, Hume watched the service on the television. She said: “It was a wonderful day, it was a shame it was raining.”

She also recalled seeing Queen Salote III of Tonga, who refused to have the roof over her coach, and so got soaked by the London drizzle.

Joan Williams, 88, remembers huddling in her mother-in-law’s sitting room in Tunbridge Wells to watch the coronation with friends, family - and some people she didn’t even know - on a nine inch television.

She said: “I remember it quite vividly. Televisions were quite new, and we didn’t ever have one, so we went to my mother-in-law’s, where there were about 20 of us all in this small room.

“We had the curtains pulled and we watched and hardly spoke, it was so wonderful.

“We had cups of tea and cake was passed around. People were all around, on the floor, on arms of chairs.”

She added: “That was what made it really, the camaraderie. Some people there we didn’t even know but because they didn’t have a television, my mother-in-law had invited them in.”

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The Queen, after her entry into the Abbey Church of Westminster, is seated in her Chair of Estate', 1953. Elizabeth II (born 1926), Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, was crowned on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey in London. From The Queen Elizabeth Coronation Souvenir. [London, 1953]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
The Queen's coronation took place at Westminster Abbey. (Getty Images)
Buckingham Palace balcony. Coronation day 1953. The Queen and the Duke exchange smiles while Prince Charles and Princess Anne are absorbed with the planes roaring overhead. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip with Charles and Anne on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. (Getty Images)

While they were stunned into silence during the service, Williams said it was something they spoke about for a long time afterwards.

Speaking about how she remembered the service, Williams said: “The pomp, we had never seen anything like it. The coach, the amount of people there, in the abbey and on the route, it was just unbelievable.

“We were fortunate that we were able to watch it.”

Ken Edwards was 13 when the Queen was crowned. He was one of the lucky Brits with a television.

He said: “I can’t remember if we bought it for the coronation - or for the FA Cup! Stanley Matthews was playing that year.

“But we had a massive 12 inch screen. When I see it played back now, it still brings back memories.”

His wife Christine Edwards was 12 when the coronation happened. She watched it in a deaf and dumb mission in Swansea, where she grew up.

She told Yahoo UK: “My uncle was deaf and dumb, which is why we used to go there, and we kept going after he died.

“They had a bigger screen there - we never had a television at home. I remember they were all signing in excitement after the coronation, they were very animated about it.”

Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation. 1953. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation. (Getty Images)

Rosemary Roberts, now 75, watched in her aunt’s mother’s cafe in Taff’s Well, Wales.

She said: “There was a huge room but with a small television, black and white, and all the family were there -

Ahead of the 65th anniversary of the event, the Queen spoke to the BBC for a documentary in which she explained how heavy the crown had been and how uncomfortable the carriage was.

“It’s only sprung on leather,” she said of the coach, adding: “Not very comfortable.”

And speaking about the problems as she got dressed, she said: “I remember one moment when I was going against the pile of the carpet and I couldn’t move at all.”

The crown, which dates from 1661, weighs 4lbs and 12oz and is made from solid gold.

Read more: How the Queen became a symbol of stability in the chaos of coronavirus

Coronation 1953 full dress rehearsal at Westminster Abbey, London, Friday 29th May 1953. Our picture shows . wearing gold and silver tiaras in the form of sprigs of flowers, five of the Queen's six Maids of Honour leave Westminster Abbey after full dress rehearsal. The Maids pictured here are (left to right) Lady Moyra Hamilton, Lady Jane Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Lady Anne Coke, Lady Mary Baillie-Hamilton and Lady Rosemary Spencer-Churchill. (Photo by Daily Mirror Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Five of the Queen's six Maids of Honour leave Westminster Abbey after full dress rehearsal in 1953. (Getty Images)

Prince Philip, who turns 99 next week, vowed to be her “liege man of life and limb” during the service, and was the first layman to pay homage to her.

Prince Charles, who was four at the time, watched the ceremony, but Anne was deemed too young at just two years old.

He was given his own invitation to the event.

A two hour procession from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace allowed as many people as possible to see the monarch.

The Queen is the longest reigning monarch and has become a symbol of stability in coronavirus times.

Her coronation pledge is often seen as proof she will not abdicate, as she vowed: “Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”