The Coronation Day of Queen Elizabeth II, June 2nd 1953: recollections
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place on 2 June 1953. This page describes my recollections of it, including seeing the coronation procession for real. The page also shows some of the memorabilia.
Based on the webmaster's childhood observations, contributions from others and additional research
What I saw of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
My father's work happened to have its offices along the route of the coronation procession. So my mother, father and I were invited to visit the offices for a window view. This meant travelling into London on the London Underground to Piccadilly Circus.
What surprises me about the journey in retrospect is that the train into London and on the way home didn't seem particularly crowded. It is possible that my father's firm laid on some sort of social before and after the event such that we arrived early and left after the crowds had gone. Certainly the streets were thick with crowds, and there was a significant boost in television sales so that people could watch the coronation in their own homes.
Cheering the Queen in the pouring rain
Unfortunately the coronation procession is not something that I remember well, probably because the windows of the offices were so high up that the view was very foreshortened. However, I could get the atmosphere of the crowds lining the road. It was electric!
If I had realised it at the time, it would have been one of the few occasions that I could have seen a postillion among the lavish gold and glitter passing below.
An all-night wait to see and cheer the procession
My mother was a staunch Royalist, and we didn't have a television. So up to London we went to see the Coronation procession for real. To be sure of a good view on the day, we travelled up the evening before and waited all night on cushions and picnic chairs. It was one of the wettest Junes on record, and although we wore macs and had umbrellas, we got soaked. It was said that about three million people lined the streets to watch the procession, but I don't know how many were there all night.
Mount Everest climbed! on Coronation Day
In the middle of the 20th century, news vendors stood outside stations to sell their newspapers, and the major news of the day was always handwritten (probably duplicated handwritten) in large letters on a bill board beside them. The breaking news on the bilboards as I was travelling into London for the coronation was that Mount Everest had been climbed! I can remember those bill boards now, as if it were yesterday!
It is probably difficult for anyone younger to understand quite how memorable and significant the scaling of Everest was. At that time the peak of Everest was one of the last great unknowns. It was an awe-inspiring and almost magical place that mankind had never managed to conquer and its significance was rather like the first moon landing in 1969.
It has frequently been said that whereas the scaling of Everest was an additional honour for Britain and the Queen on her coronation, far, far more would have been made of it, if it had been on any other day. As it was, the coronation took up the vast majority of news space later in the day.
Events marking the coronation
There were celebratory events and street parties to mark the coronation. They were particularly welcome in view of the years of shortages and austerity.
I have been given this photo of a coronation street party in Argyle Road, Edmonton. It was said with some uncertainty probably to be for George VI's coronation, and looks too lavish for the 1952 coronation of Queen Elizabeth. However, it does show the same tradition and atmosphere.
Memorabilia of Queen Elizabeth's coronation
Below are some memorabilia that I collected that year.
I also had a small mirror backed with a photo of the Queen. As you moved it, the Queen seemed to turn her head. It was the first time I had seen this technology and I was fascinated by it. It worked because the picture was on a ridged base. These ridges were small, but one photo had been printed on one edge of all the ridges and the other photo on the other edge. So as you tilted the mirror, you saw different ridge edges.