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Coronation Memories

  • 03 May 2023

To celebrate the upcoming coronation, u3a members have shared their memories of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Khatoon, Richmond Upon Thames u3a

For the Queen's Coronation, I was 9 years old and was growing up in Uganda. I have a memory of gathering with my school to participate in a party to celebrate the Coronation in her colony.My other memory of the Queen was when she came to Uganda in 1953 to open the Queen Elizabeth Bridge in Jinja. We had gathered on the bank of River Nile. I lived in a tiny village, without any televisions, and I had never seen any British people before. My father took us 60 miles to see the Queen and we were on the opposite side of the river bank. She was in a beautiful pink dress and hat. It was an experience I will never forget.

Pam, Wells u3a

In 1953, I was at university in Exeter, 20 years old and reading Mathematics. I was very hard-up and could not afford the bus fare to my home in Bristol but I could afford to go to Yeovil and on to West Coker to my aunt’s house. There, in a terrible squash, I watched the Queen’s Coronation on a 12in screen.

Seventy years later I will sit in my comfortable armchair with my son in my lovely home in Wells and watch the Coronation of Charles III on a wide screen TV. On the Sunday I will join in the celebration organised on the Cathedral Close, listen to music, support the stall holders and perhaps buy a picture for my grandson’s wedding present at the special Coronation art exhibition. How times have changed.

Christa, Knutsford u3a

From 1952 to 1954 I was a foreign student living in Essex and attended Walthamstow Polytechnic. The 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was an important event. One of my teachers, Mrs Barrie, insisted that I go to London and find a place to view the procession.

At first I hesitated because of the long wait over night, but I went. Mrs Barrie said that as we were young and the Queen was so young, we may never see another Coronation. It was also a time of political turmoil against the monarchy. I stood at the Cenotaph, ruined my only coat, but have a tremendous memory. Seeing the Queen just five feet away in the golden coach left a mark. She was so young, and she looked so pale - I felt so sorry for her.

Gill, Basingstoke - Old Basing u3a 

My schoolgirl diary reads: “Coronation. Up at 4am. On Embankment at 7.15am. Lovely view of everything.”

I had one of the two tickets allocated to my form at school as London schoolchildren were invited to watch the returning procession. I was kerbside by Cleopatra’s Needle. Decorations, flags, marching bands, mounted bands with jangling harness, laughter, rain, then the huge golden coach, Her Majesty’s brilliant smile and wave, the Handsome Prince. Never to be forgotten.

The very colourful Queen of Tonga refused to have her carriage covered and left her mark too. I saw a recording on a neighbour’s television in the evening, went to Horse Guards (Parade) next day and saw the Queen and Duke, went to a civic firework party on Saturday, saw A Queen is Crowned film on 9th and Trooping the Colour on 11th. I celebrated!

Anne, Farnham u3a

We began watching the Coronation on TV and soon, my mother decided that we would go to St. James’ Park Station. On arrival, we saw a regiment of Kenyan soldiers getting wet; an officer commanded them to shake their heads which gave each soldier in front a heavier shower. As a 10-yearold, this amused me!

On Bird Cage Walk, I mischievously climbed a balustrade to see the procession returning from Westminster Abbey; as the Queen approached, she turned to wave to me. Across the road was a white awning with a gap; I sneakily peeped through to see Coronation guests in their resplendent finery leaving Westminster Abbey for a reception. We returned home, to watch some highlights of the day, including the live fly-past of the RAF.

For King Charles’ Coronation, we will celebrate with our daughter, Royal Quiche and Queen’s Platinum Trifle, followed by a party with neighbours on the local green.

Heather, West Lothian u3a 

I can remember watching Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation when I was 10. We had a day off school and a few in my class were invited to watch on the headmaster’s TV, not me. I lived in Millport then on the Isle of Cumbrae in the house at the top of Keppel Pier.

Our neighbour, Mr Ford, invited as all to go over and watch it in black and white on their small screen tv in their living room, it was exciting. The Queen looked beautiful, her crown looked so heavy, her coronation robes were beautiful.

My family were all thrilled to be watching it live as it was happening, all the grandeur and pageantry. It seemed magical when the Queen came out of Westminster Abbey and got into a beautiful coach, I was mesmerised and it made a lasting memory for me. Looking back, it was a day I will always cherish with fondness.

Jacqui, Exmouth & District u3a

In June 1953 I was five years old. During this time I can remember my imagination being caught by the ascent of Everest, and my father had just bought a television set. Our first television, possibly the first to arrive in our mid Devon village, was encased in what looked like rather lovely wood. It had a tiny screen, perhaps about seven inches wide. It would need to warm up and then frequent adjustments would have to be made while viewing by twiddling knobs at the back.

On Coronation Day my parents had invited another couple with a daughter a few years older than I was, to come and watch the ceremony. I can remember the Coronation being long. The anointing of the Queen with oil was something that stuck in my memory, even though, of course, it was not shown. The five-year-old me worried at the thought of the Queen being doused in a lot of oil.

Finally, the ceremony ended and we came outside. My father had set up a Union Jack on a wall between our house and the next, which was the police station in those days. I remember it as an exciting day in which everything else took precedence, as my parents forgot to tell me about the successful ascent of Everest until much later.

Peter, Orpington u3a

I was invited by friends in Catford to be with them for the Coronation event. I was 12 years old - and at Eastbourne Grammar School. I wrote a short article for the school magazine which was published and I still have an original copy!

Our friends’ humble home had no television, so we were invited to a neighbour’s to watch the whole Coronation on their very small screen black and white TV. Everyone crowded into their front room. Once the ceremony was over, Uncle Ted got his old Austin 6 going and we drove to Hyde Park to watch the seemingly endless procession. It was a rainy day and we all admired those in open carriages - especially the Queen of Tonga!

I recall after the Coronation going to the Eastbourne Picturedrome Cinema to watch the movie of the event in full colour.

Caroline, of Dulwich & District u3a

I remember the shock my mother had when seeing the newspaper hoardings about the death of King George VI. It meant very little to me as I was too young at the time. My grandfather, who was the Chairman of J Lyons & co had a suite of rooms at the Cumberland Hotel (now Hard Rock Hotel!) in Marble Arch.

My memories, as a six-year old, are of watching a very long service on television, lunch brought up from the kitchens and served in the sitting-room. My sister and I were usually allowed to ‘help’ the waiters as we rolled the table back down the corridor to the lifts. I also remember watching the Procession from the hotel balcony as it came up Park Lane, around Marble Arch and along Oxford Street.

Other memories are of watching newsreel upon newsreel of the Coronation at cinemas. I’m pretty sure that my sister and I would have made a scrap book each of the event. I still have a book I was given, called The Young Queen, and have shown it to my little granddaughter.

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