[ARCHIVED CONTENT] 50 facts about The Queen's Coronation
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50 facts about The Queen's Coronation
Latest News and Diary

25 May 2003

THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT IS ISSUED BY THE PRESS SECRETARY TO THE QUEEN

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen's Coronation in June 1953.

Below is a list of 50 facts concerning the day itself, as well as some information on previous Coronations.

For centuries, Kings and Queens have been crowned in ceremonies to formalise their position as Sovereign.

Since Queen Elizabeth II's accession on February 6 a year earlier, this day had been planned in great detail.

King George VI had been the last monarch to be crowned on 12 May, 1937. Sixteen years later, people gathered together to watch the Coronation of his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, as she prepared to take part in the very ceremony she herself had watched as an 11-year-old girl.

On 2 June 2003 a church service will be held at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Coronation.

This will be followed by a children's tea party at Buckingham Palace for underprivileged children.

1. The crowning of the Sovereign is an ancient ceremony, rich in religious significance, historic associations and pageantry. For the last 900 years, it has taken place at Westminster Abbey as the royal church for the Palace of Westminster. Before the Abbey was built, Coronations were carried out wherever was convenient, for example at Bath, Oxford and Canterbury.

2. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June, 1953 in Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty was the thirty-ninth Sovereign to be crowned at Westminster Abbey.

3. Queen Elizabeth II is the sixth Queen to have been crowned in Westminster Abbey in her own right. The first was Queen Mary I, who was crowned on 1 October, 1553.

4. The Queen succeeded to the Throne on the 6th February, 1952 on the death of King George VI. She was in Kenya at the time and became the first Sovereign in over 200 years to accede while abroad.

5. The Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary, aged 81 was the first Queen to see a grandchild ascend to the throne. However, she died before the Coronation took place.

6. The Coronation service used for Queen Elizabeth II descends directly from that of King Edgar at Bath in 973. The original fourteenth-century order of service was written in Latin and was used until the Coronation of Elizabeth I.

7. The Earl Marshal is responsible for organising the Coronation. Since 1386 the position of Earl Marshal has been undertaken by The Duke of Norfolk. It was the sixteenth Duke of Norfolk who was responsible for The Queen's Coronation (1953). He was also responsible for the State funerals of Sir Winston Churchill (1965), as well as the investiture of The Prince of Wales (1969).

8. The Queen, with The Duke of Edinburgh, was driven from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in the Gold State Coach, which was pulled by eight grey geldings: Cunningham, Tovey, Noah, Tedder, Eisenhower, Snow White, Tipperary and McCreery. The Gold State Coach has been used by The Queen twice since her Coronation - at the Silver and Golden Jubilees.

9. The Coronation Bouquet was presented to The Queen by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners to take with her on the drive to Westminster Abbey. The all-white bouquet comprised orchids and lilies-of-the-valley from England, stephanotis from Scotland, and carnations from Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, with additional orchids from Wales.

10. The Duke of Edinburgh wore full-dress Naval uniform for the journey to and from the Abbey. While in the Abbey, he wore a coronet and his Duke's robe over his uniform. The Duke's page was Mr Nigel Rees, a Royal Navy Midshipman, who wore a uniform of Edinburgh green.

11. The Queen's Coronation dress was made by Mr Norman Hartnell. The dress was made of white satin embroidered with the emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. It had short sleeves with a full, flaring skirt, slightly trained, while the neckline of the fitted bodice was cut square over the shoulders, before curving into a heart-shaped centre. The dress's exquisite embroidery in gold and silver thread and pastel-coloured silks was encrusted with seed pearls and crystals to create a lattice-work effect.

12. Since the Coronation, The Queen has worn the Coronation dress six times:
Reception at Buckingham Palace
Reception at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Opening of Parliament in New Zealand (1954)
Opening of Parliament in Australia (1954)
Opening of Parliament in Ceylon (1954)
Opening of Parliament in Canada (1957)

13. Buckingham Palace housemaids, chefs and gardeners gathered inside the Grand Hall at Buckingham Palace to see The Queen leave for Westminster Abbey.

14. The Queen's Coronation service began at 11.15 am and lasted almost three hours, concluding at 2.00 pm.

15. On her way to the Coronation, Her Majesty wore the George IV State Diadem - the one she is depicted wearing on stamps. It was made in 1820 for George IV's Coronation. The Diadem incorporates national symbols: roses, shamrocks and thistles and features 1,333 diamonds and 169 pearls. It is on display at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

16. The Sovereign's procession, as it entered the Abbey, was some 250 strong with traditional representatives from Crown, Church and State. It included Church leaders, Commonwealth Prime Ministers, members of the Royal Household, civil and military leaders and the Yeoman of the Guard.

17. The Queen's Coronation service was taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose duty this has usually been since the Conquest in 1066. For the first time at the 1953 Coronation, a representative of another Church, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, also took part in the service.

18. The Coronation service fell into six basic parts: the recognition, the oath, the anointing, the investiture, which includes the crowning, the enthronement and the homage.

19. The anointing has the deepest significance during the ceremony. The recipe for the Anointing Oil contains oils of orange, roses, cinnamon, musk and ambergris. Usually a batch is made to last a few Coronations. In May 1941, a bomb hit the Deanery destroying the phial containing the anointing oil so a new batch had to be made up. The pharmacy that had mixed the last anointing oil had gone out of business but the recipe was found and the oil made.

20. One of the more notable installations for the Coronation was the annexe at the west end of Westminster Abbey. This provided the necessary space in which the processions could form and disperse unseen by the crowds.

21. During the investiture, The Queen first put on the newly-made Colobium Sindonis - a loose linen-lawn garment, and then a robe of cloth of gold - the Dalmatic or Supertunica, which was used by King George VI. The Lord Great Chamberlain presented the golden spurs, the symbol of chivalry, after which the Archbishop of Canterbury presented a jewelled sword, and then the armills, the golden bracelets of sincerity and wisdom. Finally, The Queen put on stole and cloth of gold Robe Royal (Imperial Mantle) and received the orb, the coronation ring, the glove, which was newly made and presented by the Worshipful Company of Glovers, and the sceptre.

22. Prince Charles created history when he became the first child to witness his mother's coronation as Sovereign. Princess Anne did not attend the ceremony as she was considered too young.

23. Prince Charles received a special hand-painted children's invitation to his mother's Coronation. The invitation is on display at Windsor Castle until September, 2003.

24. A total of 8,251 guests attended The Queen's Coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

25. One hundred and twenty-nine nations and territories were officially represented at the Coronation service.

26. There were some people in the Abbey who were witnessing their fourth Coronation, for example, Her Highness Princess Marie Louise (granddaughter of Queen Victoria). The four coronations were: King Edward VII (1902), King George V (1911), King George VI (1937) and Queen Elizabeth II (1953).

27. The Chairs of Estate in which The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were seated during the first part of the Coronation ceremony, are now on the dais in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. The Chair of Homage used during the service was newly designed for The Queen's coronation and is now kept in the Garter Throne Room at Windsor Castle. The Queen was crowned in St Edward's Chair, made in 1300 for Edward I and used at every Coronation since that time. It is permanently kept in Westminster Abbey.

28. The St. Edward's Crown, made in 1661, was the crown placed on the head of The Queen during the Coronation service. It weighs 4 pounds and 12 ounces and is made of solid gold. The crown in its current form was first used by Charles II as it had to be redesigned after the Restoration. It was refurbished from an old crown and there is speculation that the lower part might be from Edward the Confessor's crown.

29. After the crown, the orb, also made in 1661, was the most important piece of regalia. It is a globe of gold surrounded by a cross girdled by a band of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphire and pearls with a large amethyst at the summit.

30. The Coronation ring, often referred to as 'The Wedding Ring of England' was worn by The Queen on the fourth finger of her right hand in accordance with tradition. The ring was made for the Coronation of King William IV in 1831 and takes the form of a sapphire surmounted by a cross in rubies surrounded by diamonds. It was made at a cost of £157 and has been worn at every coronation since then with the exception of Queen Victoria. Her fingers were so small that the ring could not be reduced far enough in size, so a special Coronation ring had to be worn. Unfortunately during the service, the ring was forced onto the wrong finger, causing Queen Victoria to be in 'great pain.'

31. The 1953 Coronation service was the first service to be televised (the 1937 procession was broadcast) - and for most people it was the first time they had watched an event on television. The televising of the Coronation by the BBC was a breakthrough in the history of outside broadcasting.

32. An estimated 27 million people in Britain watched the ceremony on TV and 11 million listened on the radio. The Queen agreed that the Coronation be televised so that as many people as possible could observe the ceremony. (The population of Britain at the time was just over 36 million.)

33. There were more than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations on the Coronation route. Thirty cameramen were chosen for the service in the Abbey for their slightness of build, particularly for above the organ loft.

34. Among the many foreign journalists in London to report on the Coronation was Jacqueline Bouvier (who later became the First Lady of the United States of America, Jackie Kennedy). She was working for the Washington Times-Herald at the time.

35. The return route taken to Buckingham Palace had been designed so that The Queen and her procession could be seen by as many people in London as possible. The 7.2 kilometre route took the 16,000 participants two hours to complete. The procession itself stretched for three kilometres. Those on foot marched 10 abreast while those on horseback were six abreast.

36. People camped in The Mall to catch a glimpse of the procession, including an Australian family who had sailed all the way from Australia in a ketch for the occasion. Many people were so keen to see the Coronation procession that they camped for two days along the route. Thousands more celebrated throughout the country and the Commonwealth with street parties.

37. The Ministry of Food granted 82 applications for people to roast oxen, if they could prove that by tradition, an ox had been roasted at previous Coronations - a welcome concession in a country where the meat ration was two shillings a week.

38. The Imperial State Crown, which was worn by The Queen during her return to Buckingham Palace, contained four pearls traditionally believed to have been Queen Elizabeth I's earrings.

39. During the procession back to Buckingham Palace after the Coronation, The Queen wore the newly-made Purple Robe of Estate. The velvet robe was edged with ermine and heavily embroidered around the border in gold. The embroidered cipher of The Queen and border of wheat ears and olive branches, took a total of 3,500 hours to complete by a team of 12 seamstresses from the Royal School of Needlework. The silk for the embroidery came from a silk farm in Lullingstone, Kent.

40. The officers and men taking part in the procession or lining the route totalled 29,200: 3,600 from the Royal Navy, 16,100 from the Army and 7,000 from the RAF, 2,000 from the Commonwealth and 500 from the 'Colonies'. There were 6,700 reserve and administrative troops, while 1,000 officers and men of the Royal military police were bought in to assist the Metropolitan police. A further 7,000 police were drawn from 75 provincial forces.

41. The smiling Queen Salote of Tonga won the hearts and acclaim of the waiting crowds as she remained undaunted by the rain throughout the long procession and refused to raise the roof of her carriage for protection.

42. The principal decorations for the processional route were in The Mall where there were four twin-spanned arches of tubular steel that were illuminated at night. The arches were lifted into place by giant mobile cranes. Linking the arches down the route were the long lines of standards mounted with golden crowns and each hung with four scarlet banners bearing the Royal Monogram.

43. The Queen appeared with her family on the balcony of the palace still wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Royal Robes to greet the cheering crowds. The Queen appeared again on the balcony at Buckingham Palace at 9.45 pm to turn on the 'lights of London'. Lights cascaded down the Mall from the Palace, lighting the huge cipher on Admiralty Arch and turning the fountains in Trafalgar Square into liquid silver, until all the floodlights from the National Gallery to the Tower of London had been illuminated.

44. Coronation Chicken was invented for the foreign guests who were to be entertained after the Coronation. The food had to be prepared in advance, and Constance Spry, who also helped with floral arrangements on the day, proposed a recipe of cold chicken in a curry cream sauce with a well-seasoned dressed salad of rice, green peas and mixed herbs. Constance Spry's recipe won the approval of the Minister of Works and has since been known as Coronation Chicken.

45. Numerous official photographs were taken in Buckingham Palace after the Coronation, but the most memorable are those taken by Cecil Beaton. For his defining image he posed The Queen in front of a backdrop depicting Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

46. The official artist for the Coronation was Polish artist Feliks Topolski who was commissioned to produce a permanent record of the occasion for a specific location - the Lower Corridor in Buckingham Palace. The painting was made in 14 sections, each well over a metre high, measuring nearly 30 metres in total. The frieze will be on public display for the first time during the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace this year.

47. In Coronation year, The Queen's Lord Lieutenants commissioned artist Terence Cuneo to paint the Coronation ceremony. The following year, James Gunn painted a State Portrait of The Queen in Coronation robes with Regalia, wearing the Diadem.

48. On 2nd June, 1953 it was learned that Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay had reached the summit of Mount Everest. The Queen had the idea of presenting the fourteen members of the expedition with special edition Coronation medals, which contained the extra wording 'Mount Everest Expedition'.

49. The first overseas tour The Queen undertook after the Coronation was to Bermuda, Jamaica, Panama, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand starting in November 1953. Her Majesty returned in1954 visiting Australia, Ceylon, Aden and Uganda - going home in Britannia from Aden via Malta and Gibraltar.

50. On 24th June 1953, the Honours of Scotland (the crown, the sceptre and the sword) were carried before The Queen in a procession from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St Giles Cathedral.

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