Queen Elizabeth's coronation: a defining moment of the 20th century

Queen's coronation took place 16 months after her father, King George VI, died

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Queen Elizabeth II's coronation on June 2, 1953, was not only the first to be televised, but one of the first global events to occur during the TV age.

The ceremony was broadcast around the world at the queen's request, bringing the regalia and pageantry of such an occasion into the living rooms of millions. Approximately 27 million people in Britain alone watched the ceremony, around three-quarters of the population at the time, in many cases entire streets gathering together around newly bought sets.

The queen's son, King Charles III, will undergo a similar ceremony, replete with similar traditions but slightly slimmed down, on May 6 next year.

The timing of the queen's coronation was also significant for Britain, the sense of celebration helping lift the nation out of its post-war slumber.

The king, who had been on the throne since 1936, died after a prolonged illness when the then Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya having taken his place on an official tour. She returned immediately to take her place as sovereign.

On the eve of her coronation 16 months later, she made a radio broadcast to the Commonwealth in which she pledged her devotion to its people. She said: "Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust."

Her coronation took place in Westminster Abbey and the service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher. There were about 8,000 guests including international royals and world leaders. The Duke of Edinburgh was the first peer to pay his respects to the queen.

Queen Elizabeth II's 70-year reign - in pictures

There was then a two-hour procession through the streets of London on a 7.2-kilometre route, so the queen could be seen by as many people as possible. The procession involved 16,000 participants, with another 13,000 lining the route.

After the service, she gave a speech on TV and radio, in which she thanked the public for their support.

She said: "Many thousands of you came to London from all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire to join in the ceremony, but I have been conscious too of the millions of others who have shared in it by means of wireless or television in their homes. All of you, near or far, have been united in one purpose. It is hard for me to find words in which to tell you of the strength which this knowledge has given me.

King Charles III through the years – in pictures

"The ceremonies you have seen today are ancient, and some of their origins are veiled in the mists of the past. But their spirit and their meaning shine through the ages never, perhaps, more brightly than now. I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.

"In this resolve, I have my husband to support me. He shares all my ideals and all my affection for you. Then, although my experience is so short and my task so new, I have in my parents and grandparents an example which I can follow with certainty and with confidence."

Updated: October 11, 2022, 6:22 PM
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