St. Edward’s Crown is displayed during the Service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation in Westminster Abbey, 4 June 2013. Photo © Press Association. Photo source: The British Monarchy
Note: The article below is from the Guardian.
‘The thing is, no other country can do it like this country,” said Alison Taylor, who had left her Bedfordshire home at dawn to claim prime real estate behind the barriers facing Westminster Abbey, armed with two small union flags and a coolbag for her sandwiches bearing the motto: “Keep calm and celebrate.”
By “it”, of course, she meant put on a show befitting a Queen, and though there were no golden coaches or military flypasts at Tuesday’s service commemorating 60 years since Elizabeth was crowned, you didn’t have to be a royalist diehard to know what she meant.
British coronations are all about show – not for nothing is the large central space of Westminster Abbey deemed “the Theatre” during coronation services – and though vastly less lavish than the event which it commemorated, the service in front of a packed congregation of suited and hatted notables was weighty enough in its symbolism.
Her Majesty came in civvies, sporting a smart white silk brocade and coat and flower trimmed hat, finished off with an enormous Brazilian aquamarine. But on the high altar of the abbey, in front of which she and 37 other monarchs since William the Conqueror have kneeled before being crowned, rested the St Edward’s crown which had been placed briefly on her head at the service 60 years and two days earlier, and which has not left the Tower of London since.
It sat in front of the ornate gold cross, immediately facing the Dean of Westminster as he prayed before the altar, and unambiguous in what it signified. A jewel of ridiculous value which, in the words of a new verse by the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy that was read read during the service, “translates a woman to a Queen”, and worthy to sit in the most sacred spot in the abbey alongside the symbol of Christ’s resurrection itself. Even in these more secular and less reverential times, the audacity of the symbolism was almost breathtaking.
Unlike Tuesday’s dazzling blue skies marking the arrival, at last, of something like Spring, coronation day in 1953 had been, noted the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, a horrible rainy day – “very British”.
It had also been “the first time the whole nation had watched anything as it happened”, and that new television audience – estimated, almost unbelieveably, at 27 million people – had seen the Queen embark on “a path demanding devotion and utter self-sacrifice, a path she did not choose, yet to which she was called by God”. As such, said the archbishop, the Queen had become “the model of liberty and authority which our country enjoys”, representing “the very nature of being British”.
The service also incorporated another striking symbol of Britishness, however, when 11 “representatives of the United Kingdom” processed up the central aisle of the Abbey. They were led by a Guide leader and included two children, a naval officer, a judge, two Chelsea pensioners, a teacher, a peer, a nurse and a lollipop lady, wearing high visibility uniform but not, alas, carrying her stick.
By the Queen’s side was another model of dogged self-sacrifice in the person of her husband, the 91-year-old Duke of Edinburgh. Doubts had been raised over Prince Philip’s attendance at the Abbey, after he pulled out of an engagement on Monday evening due to being “unwell”. But the Duke has for six decades honoured his own vow on that day to be “your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship”, and he wasn’t going to let her down now.
With them sat the Queen’s four children and their spouses, and seven of her eight grandchildren (Prince Edward’s younger child, Viscount Severn, is just five and so can probably be excused). To the Queen’s left was the heavily pregnant Duchess of Cornwall, who is due to give birth next month to a baby which, boy or girl, can reasonably expect to be crowned a monarch in front of the same altar some decades from now, the great-grandchild of a lorry driver transformed into a king or queen, in a ritual that still broadly follows the coronation liturgy of King Edgar in 973. It would take a brave person, on such a day, confidently to predict the advent of a republic in the interim.
Earlier, the 2,000 invited guests – including religious, diplomatic and military representatives, along with some who had participated in the 1953 service and guests “from every county in the United Kingdom” – had formed a long, snaking line from the Abbey gates waiting to have their bags searched. “Just as well we’re British and know how to queue,” sniffed one.
Space had been less of a headache sixty years ago, when the Abbey had been closed for five months before the coronation to allow the construction of huge banked tiers of seating that vastly increased its capacity to more than 8,000, and for a time required the installation of a railway track to transport the hundreds of tonnes of scaffolding required. June Davis had been a 14-year-old girl in Burnley on that day, preparing to leave school; on Tuesday she was outside the abbey wearing a paper crown, union flag earrings and a tunic made from patriotic tea towels stitched together. “I remember we had a street party, and then we watched it on a 9-inch television at a friend’s house,” she said. She then went to the Burnley Odeon to watch it all again.
Why had she come to the Abbey so many years later? “I just think the Queen has done a wonderful job all these years. She took those vows, and she’s kept them. She’s never let anybody down, all through the years.”
And, 87 or not, her work goes on. Following the service the Queen and other royals attended a lunch with the Dean and Chapter of Westminster; on Thursday she will host a garden party at Buckingham Palace; on Friday she will open the BBC’s new Broadcasting House. Then the Trooping of the Colour, more receptions, more military inspections.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010