“I believe it will be a very long time indeed before those of us privileged to share in London’s Coronation festivities can look back on June 2nd without being deeply moved all over again,” wrote Kay Cannon about the fanfare around Queen Elizabeth II’s crowning ceremony in the August 1953 issue of the Canadian Geographical Journal.
Preparations for celebrations in London began almost a year in advance of the ceremony and included building stands for spectators along the procession route by Westminster Abbey and Royal Parks. In the week prior, Kensington Gardens “had become a city of canvas harbouring thousands of the troops [including Canadian regiments and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police] to take part in Coronation processions,” wrote Cannon, and rehearsals were held daily. While London was still reeling from the incredible devastation of the Second World War bombings almost a decade before, decorations and flags were placed over the damage and visitors from all over swarmed the city.
At 8:45 a.m. on June 2, a sea of people, many of whom had been camped out for days, erupted with cheers as the first of nine processions of royalty and dignitaries began. At 10:26, the loudest cheers welcomed the Queen in her golden stage coach, as she made her way to her Coronation at Westminster Abbey.
In honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday today, here is a selection of images from her Coronation ceremony published in the journal more than 60 years ago.
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by her husband, smiles in radiant recognition of her people’s acclamations as she drives to Westminster Abbey in the splendid golden coach built by her ancestor King George III in 1761. Not yet invested with the insignia of sovereign estate, she carries only flowers, and wears the diadem of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. (Photo: Canadian Geographic archives)
The enthusiasm of the crowd is roused by the brilliant ranks of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, happily caught by the camera at a moment when they were passing between the offices at the Canadian National Railways in Cockspur Street and Canada House. The maple leaf is plainly seen above the doorway. (Photo: Canadian Geographic archives)
The Archbishop of Canterbury places on the young Queen’s head the crown of St. Edward which she alone has the right to wear. At the same moment all the peers and peeresses put on their coronets and shout “God save the Queen.” Simultaneously a royal salute is fired from the Tower of London and in Commonwealth cities all around the world. It is the climax of all the symbolism that binds our family nations together. (Photo: Canadian Geographic archives)
The Queen, now wearing the mantle of imperial purple and gold, heads the stately procession of two hundred and fifty persons down the length of the Abbey nave towards the annexe. She is escorted by her Gentlemen at Arms in their swan-plumed helmets and the aisle is lined with Yeomen of the Guard bearing their ancient halberds. Immediately behind the Queen is her Mistress of the Robes, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, attended by her page the Marquis of Hartington. (Photo: Canadian Geographic archives)
Seats and stands are empty and the vast crowd throngs the Mall looking towards Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Canadian Geographic archives)