From the Monitor Archives: Elizabeth II is crowned queen
Wednesday the queen became Britain's longest reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria. The Monitor was there when she was coronated amid much pomp and circumstance in June 1953.
Westminster Abbey, England
Queen Elizabeth II set the record on Wednesday for Britain's longest ruling monarch, surpassing her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria's 63 years, 7 months, and 2 days. Elizabeth has been England's monarch since the death of her father, George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952, but she was not officially crowned until more than a year later, on June 2, 1953. Below is the front page article from the June 2, 1953, edition of The Christian Science Monitor, recounting her coronation.
Britain Crowns Queen in Dazzling Ceremony
In Westminster Abbey
By Carlyle Morgan
Chief of the London News Bureau of The Christian Science Monitor
WESTMINSTER ABBEY, ENGLAND – "God save the Queen!"
Britain and fellow nations of the Commonwealth, in a historic and dazzling ceremony in Westminster Abbey, have crowned Queen Elizabeth II.
They have done so under the Abbey’s soaring Gothic vaults against a background of ancient stonework partly overlaid with rich damasks and carpets of blue and gold.
They have done so on a June day mostly cold and rainy but with moments when sunshine flooded into the Abbey transepts through the great high diamond-paned windows.
They have done so in a ceremony whose heart is the Christian tradition but which binds together hundreds of millions of people of innumerable religious persuasions.
A ceremony of changing mood and pace, now surging to the blare of trumpets and throb of drums, now flowing like a deep, broad river to the grand sonorities of organ, orchestra, and 400-voice choir. A ceremony mingling sudden roars of recognition of the sovereign with the careful modulations of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
A humbling ceremony – even, and perhaps mostly, as it touched the Queen herself, impersonal in its demands on loyalty and devotion, yet with one touch of humanity that made all its witnesses kin as the Duke of Edinburgh kissed the cheek of his wife the Queen when pledging fealty to Her Majesty after the enthroning.
A ceremony rising to a majestic climax of sound and movement as the Queen in procession passed through the Coronation theater while choir, orchestra, organ, trumpeters, and vast assemblage made the Abbey rock with the British national anthem.
So it is done.
But it is not finished.
The portent of this Coronation far outshines its antique splendors. This Coronation bespeaks a continuing, developing unity – though not uniformity – among eight fully self-governing nations along with others partly self-governing. This unity embraces colonies and protectorates, all moving gradually toward self-rule within a globe-circling design of common interest and mutual defense.
In the Abbey, in the streets, beside living-room television sets or jungle radios, Commonwealth peoples have listened and watched while the slight figure of Elizabeth Windsor moved composedly through 2 1/2 hours of the Coronation's ceremonial maze.
Questioned, answering, pledging, praying, before the brilliant concourse of princes and peers of Britain, Commonwealth prime ministers, princes, ambassadors, officials and notables from more than 90 nations all over the world – numbering some 7,600 persons.
Crown Placed on Head
The supreme moment in the Coronation service came when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, took the heavy Coronation crown – which the Dean of Westminster had brought from the altar – and placed it reverently on Queen Elizabeth's head.
"At the sight whereof, the people, with loud and repeated shouts," hailed their sovereign.
Immediately the princes and princesses, peers, and peeresses, who had been witnessing this act bare-headed, put on their coronets and caps. A fanfare of trumpets hurled veritable broadsides of sound against the reverberating Abbey walls. And far away in the Tower of London, booming guns proclaimed the crowning.
Much of the highly distinguished audience had been waiting in the Abbey for some hours before the Queen arrived, though it was early morning when guests began to take their seats, nearly all were either in ceremonial or full evening dress – the women in resplendent gowns, the men in official or court dress or "white tie and tails.”
While waiting, many had remarked on the British conquest of Mt. Everest, news of which had come just in time to give the extra note of inspiring achievement on this already great day.
The wait for the Queen was broken at intervals of 10 minutes to half an hour by arrivals of eight separate processions.
First to enter the Abbey annex specially built for this Coronation was the Lord Mayor’s procession from the Mansion House. Ten minutes later at nearly 9 o’clock, some members of the Royal Family arrived by car, followed almost immediately by royal and other representatives of foreign states in hundreds.
Another half hour brought new colors to the already dazzling scene with procession of the Queen of Tonga – from the Friendly Islands in the South Pacific – and the Sultans of Zanzibar [now part of modern Tanzania], Johore, Selangor, Kalantan, Perak [all four now states in Malaysia], Brunei, and Lahej [now part of southern Yemen].
Then followed within a few minutes 10 prime ministers of Commonwealth countries. And even more impressive than usual among them appeared the Queen's new Knight of the Garter, Sir Winston Churchill in the rich robes and insignia of that select order.
After that seemed the longest pause of all – though it was a minute or so shorter than some earlier ones – the procession of the Queen herself.
Now came a moment of acute suspense. The cyclops eyes of television cameras stared more expectantly. The excited buzz of thousands of conversations tailed off swiftly to a whisper, like the strings in an orchestra under imperious command from the conductor.
Queen Enters Abbey
Then — a lightning flash of sound from the trumpets. The Queen was here, entering in procession by the west door of the Abbey, robed in crimson and supported on either hand by the bishops of Durham and of Bath and Wells. The procession moved through the nave of the Abbey while choristers sang that anthem familiar to British sovereigns since Stuart times: “I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord.”
Waiting to greet Her Majesty in the choir stood the Queen’s Scholars of Westminster School.
“Vivat Regina Elizabeths! Vivat, Vivat, Vivat!” their chant rang out as she passed, her train borne, as was Queen Victoria’s at the Coronation in 1838, by titled maids of honor instead of pages.
Prepares for Oath
On the broad, gold-carpeted platform in the "theater" or central space of the Abbey, she passed the Throne, paused in “humble adoration,” then knelt at the faldstool, or prayer stool, before a second chair – her chair of state – for brief private prayers.
Soon she would be seated in this chair to take the oath – a solemn promise to govern the peoples of Britain, the Commonwealth, and other possessions and territories “according to their respective laws and customs.”
Then in yet a third chair, that of King Edward I with the Stone of Scone or Scottish Coronation stone in its base, she would be crowned.
Meanwhile a slow-moving but ever-shifting kaleidoscope sorted and resorted colors and patterns and even sounds continuously for delighted spectators in the Abbey.
Splendidly robed and mitered bishops brought Bible, paten, and chalice to the altar.
Lords in red robes and ermine capes who had carried the regalia of two crowns, scepter, royal orb, and other insignia in the procession, now presented them to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who delivered them to the Dean of Westminster, who placed them on the altar.
After the recognition came the oath, and then the presentation of the Holy Bible. In previous ceremonies, this has taken place just after the crowning, but the order of service was changed this year to provide a better sequence of thought, action, and prayer.
Under another change, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took part with the Archbishop of Canterbury in presenting the Bible to the Queen, having received it from the Dean of Westminster, and saying “Here is wisdom; this is the royal law: these are the lively oracles of God.”
Thus to the crowning itself.
Then from King Edward’s chair the Queen proceeded to the throne to be “lifted up” into it by the Archbishop and bishops and peers while other nobles gathered about its steps.
After the homage and communion, the Queen withdrew into St. Edward’s Chapel to be divested of the Robe Royal and arrayed in her robe of purple velvet. Wearing now the lighter imperial crown in place of the heavy St. Edward’s Crown, and carrying scepter and cross and orb, the Queen proceeded in state back to the Abbey's west door.
So ended a ceremony which has set up a milestone on the road of Commonwealth evolution. Queen Elizabeth II is the first British sovereign to be crowned “head of the Commonwealth” as well as Queen in most of its parts, a title under which republics can join with monarchial governments in Commonwealth membership.