Queen Elizabeth’s coronation lifted Britain’s post-war gloom Lalrp


LONDON — In 1953, London was nonetheless recovering from World Warfare II. The town was pockmarked with bomb harm, meals provides had been tight and life was uninteresting for youngsters who had by no means eaten something so unique as a banana.

However the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II helped carry the gloom.

Central London buzzed with exercise as staff constructed short-term stands alongside the 5-mile route of the queen’s procession. Big crowns had been suspended from arches that soared over The Mall approaching Buckingham Palace, and shopkeepers crammed their home windows with colourful banners and coronation-themed merchandise.

With Elizabeth’s son, King Charles III, set to be topped on Could 6, individuals are recalling his mom’s coronation 70 years in the past, which was the final time the British public witnessed the ritual.

“The entire of London was form of a cauldron of individuals speeding to the world to have a look at what was taking place,” mentioned James Wilkinson, then an 11-year-old member of the Westminster Abbey choir, which sang in the course of the ceremony.

Wilkinson’s reminiscences of these occasions start greater than a 12 months earlier than the coronation.

The choristers, all of whom attended a particular boarding faculty for choir members, had been in a Latin lesson when the abbey’s nice tenor bell started to toll each minute, and the Union flag was lowered to half workers.

“The headmaster got here in and instructed us that the king had died,’’ Wilkinson mentioned. “And, in fact, what excited us then was the truth that there can be new cash and stamps with the queen’s head on them, as a result of all of us collected stamps.”

The preliminary buzz was adopted by the conclusion that there can be a coronation.

The choristers spent months getting ready for the service, studying the music and lyrics to the hymns they’d sing in the course of the three-hour lengthy ceremony. The abbey was closed to prepare.

Tiers of short-term seating had been put in to quadruple the abbey’s capability to accommodate 8,251 company, a brief annex was constructed outdoors to supply area for the individuals to don their robes and prepare for the procession, and preparations had been made to broadcast the occasion on the nonetheless rising medium of tv.

Wilkinson, now 81, remembers being shocked when the choristers entered the church for his or her first on-site rehearsal a number of weeks earlier than the coronation.

“We hadn’t been into the abbey for a very long time, and I used to be completely astonished by the sight of it as a result of it was … reworked inside with great new carpets and balconies,’’ he mentioned. “There (had been) the tv lights for the filming, which made the entire thing sparkle.”

Greater than 4,000 miles away on the Caribbean island of Dominica, in what was nonetheless a nook of the British Empire, kids had been additionally getting ready for the crowning of the glamorous younger lady who was their queen, too.

Sylius Toussaint, now 83, nonetheless remembers the coronation tune he discovered seven many years in the past, chuckling as he softly croons out the blessing for “our queen who’s topped in the present day,” solely sometimes stumbling over a phrase misplaced to the passage of time.

“When within the mud of the abbey brown, and bells ring out in London city, the queen who’s topped with a golden crown, could also be topped, could also be topped, be topped with thy kids’s love,” he concludes. “Heheheh. Sure, I do not forget that!”

There have been no TVs within the village of St. Joseph, about 10 miles from the capital, Roseau, so the adults huddled round two radios to observe occasions in London.

For Toussaint and his pals, it was a day of meals, video games and patriotic songs, identical to on Empire Day, the annual vacation created on the flip of the final century to remind kids in the UK’s far-flung outposts that they had been British.

They performed cricket and rounders, drank ginger beer and ate cake candy with margarine and coconut, Toussaint mentioned. The Boy Scouts marched, and there have been three-legged races.

“That is what it was for the queen’s coronation,” he mentioned. “Folks had been speaking about her and so forth, and we at all times wished to see her … We had been introduced up as British; we had been proud to be British.”

It was solely later, when he moved to Preston in northern England to work within the metropolis’s textile mills, that Toussaint discovered about racism. Then a number of years in the past the U.Ok. authorities compelled Toussaint and his spouse to use for British citizenship, dashing the illusions of the kid who as soon as sang about “our queen.”

Hundreds of individuals from the Caribbean had been caught up in a authorities crackdown on immigration, with many shedding jobs, housing and advantages in the event that they had been unable to provide paperwork proving their proper to be within the nation. The federal government was compelled to apologize and pay compensation for what grew to become often known as the Windrush Scandal, named after the ship that introduced the primary Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948.

However Toussaint blames Britain’s elected authorities for the scandal, not the monarchy. And regardless of the nation’s issues, he plans to look at the coronation of King Charles III on Could 6.

“All instructed, I’m happy to have the ability to say, ‘Charles, you’re king. God bless you and do a superb job.’ As a result of that’s the system we’ve got till we are able to give you one thing higher, that’s the place we’re. And I’m keen to have a good time it with my neighbors and pals.”


Max Hancock, a 19-year-old from Sparks, Georgia, was a U.S. airman stationed at RAF Brize Norton close to Oxford on the time of the coronation.

As Individuals, Hancock and his buddies had no allegiance to the British monarch, however they knew the coronation can be a historic occasion so that they made the 70-mile journey to London by bus and practice, then joined the crowds hoping to see the queen go by. On a misty, wet day, an estimated 3 million folks packed the sidewalks alongside the parade route lined with troopers, sailors and airmen.

Staking out a place on Regent Avenue, even then a high-end purchasing district, Hancock climbed up a barricade along with his digital camera to get a greater view as 46 marching bands, troops of cavalry, and carriages carrying Commonwealth dignitaries and members of the royal household handed by on their circuitous route from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace.

However he solely had one roll of movie — 25 frames — to seize the cavalcade within the period earlier than good telephones and digital cameras, and he needed to ensure he acquired one picture of the queen.

Then, up forward, he noticed a carriage that was “essentially the most lovely factor I believed I’d ever seen,” so he snapped off three or 4 fast photographs considering it have to be Elizabeth. Nevertheless it turned out to be her sister, Princess Margaret, and the queen mom.

He solely had two frames left.

When the golden state coach, pulled by eight white horses and surrounded by liveried footmen, got here into view, he knew it was time to make use of them.

“Although I believed that the queen mom’s was nice, it didn’t examine with the queen’s — it was all gold,” Hancock remembered.

“And as I’ve mentioned many instances, as I believe again on it, I’ve by no means considered her being a really nice magnificence queen, however she was essentially the most lovely lady I’ve ever seen on this planet when she rode by there in that chariot.”

With comprehensible satisfaction, Hancock confirmed the slides an elementary faculty in southern Georgia so he might give the children a closeup view of historical past. And when the queen died in September, his native newspaper, the Moultrie Observer, instructed the story of the day an area boy went to the coronation.

“Seeing that parade, seeing the passion, seeing the those who had been there … it was overwhelming for me,” he mentioned. “I knew I used to be seeing one thing particular. I knew it could be, for the remainder of my life, I’d bear in mind it.”

James Wilkinson knew he, too, was a part of one thing extraordinary, so the longer term BBC journalist recorded all the things he noticed, in a looping script on the now-yellowed pages of his diary.

There was the ham sandwich, apple and exhausting sweet every boy was given to maintain his abdomen from growling after the choir filed into the Abbey early within the morning, then waited for the ceremony to start at 11:15 a.m. The lords and women in fur-trimmed state robes, a few of whom stashed miniature bottles of whisky and brandy underneath their caps to fortify them as they waited. And the thrill that went by the group when a bustle of exercise prompt the queen was on her approach, solely to be deflated when it turned out to be a troop of attendants with carpet sweepers tidying the best way for her majesty.

However the climax for Wilkinson was when the Archbishop of Canterbury raised St. Edward’s Crown — with its purple velvet cap and strong gold body topped with a bejeweled cross — excessive within the air, then lowered it slowly onto the queen’s head.

Sitting with the remainder of the choir someplace behind the queen’s proper shoulder, he didn’t really see the second Elizabeth was topped as a result of her head was hidden behind the excessive, peaked again of the Coronation Chair. However he noticed its journey to her head.

“I knew this was going to be a factor I ought to always remember, and I watched it very carefully understanding that it was, you realize, the spotlight of the service and that’s how I bear in mind it in the present day,” he mentioned. “It was a fabulous occasion.”