The Queen ascended to the throne on 2 February 1952, upon the death of her father King George VI, but was not crowned for more than a year afterwards, as the period of mourning required wouldn’t allow a swift ceremony, and the planning behind it would take some time.
The Queen’s coronation date was chosen reportedly because it was the most likely to be a nice day, weather-wise, however, it rained for most of it. Queen Tupou III of Tonga became a crowd favourite when she rode an open carriage after the coronation, smiling and jubilant for all to see.
The Queen entered Westminster Abbey as “I Was Glad” played, preceded by St. Edward’s Crown. She proceeded up to the Theatre, where the ceremony was to be performed, along with her ladies-in-waiting, and those who would be performing the ceremony.
The next part was the Recognition, which involved the Queen presenting herself to all four sides of the Theatre, while the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Great Chamberlain, Lord High Constable, and Earl Marshal, announced to all four sides – in order, East, South, West and North – said, “Sirs, I here present unto you Queen Elizabeth, your undoubted Queen: Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and service, Are you willing to do the same?”
The reply to all four versions of the question was, “God save Queen Elizabeth!”
The Queen then took the Coronation Oath, administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Archbishop asked the Queen, “Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and your Possession and other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?”
To which the Queen replied, “I solemnly promise so to do.”
After swearing more oaths, the Queen proceeded to the altar and vowed, “The things which I have here promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.”
The Queen then kissed the Bible, and the Communion Service began, followed by the Anointing, during which “Zadok the Priest,” a coronation anthem composed by Handel for the coronation of George II in 1724 was sung as the Queen sat in the Coronation Chair.
The Queen was hidden from camera view for the moment of anointing, as it was deemed too sacrosanct to be filmed.
Following this, the Queen was presented with spurs, the Sword of State, Armills, Stole Bracelet, Robe Royal, Sovereign’s Orb, the Queen’s Ring, the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove.
After the Benediction portion, the Queen returned to her throne and was lifted into it, and the princes and peers present paid their homages to her, first the Archbishop of Canterbury, then led by Prince Philip, her husband.
“I, Philip, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God.”
He then kissed her crown and left cheek.
The Dukes of Gloucester and Kent also performed this task.
After all the homages were paid, the Queen removed all royal regalia and took Communion. Once this was finished, those assembled recited The Lord’s Prayer. The Queen put on the Imperial State Crown and held the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb in both hands as the crowd sang “God Save the Queen” during her departure from Westminster Abbey.
The Queen returned to Buckingham Palace after a long procession led by thousands of military personnel from around the Commonwealth, and appeared on the balcony for a fly-past.
The Queen’s coronation marked the first time the event was broadcast on television. Her father’s had been broadcast on the radio, although parts of it were filmed by the BBC. The matter was debated heavily, and Sir Winston Churchill was staunchly against it, but Elizabeth was adamant that it be recorded.
To make the broadcast available the same day, RAF Canberras flew film footage across the Atlantic so that the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) could air it. It was the first non-stop transatlantic flight between the United Kingdom and Canada, and landed in Labrador, before the film was transferred to a CF-100 fighter jet, which made the trip to Montreal.
The coronation lasted just under three hours, beginning at 11:15 am and ending at 2:00 pm.