With the forthcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Miss Meghan Markle on 19th May it is easy to forget that another royal celebration is not far away. On 2nd June this year, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 65 years since her coronation; her Sapphire jubilee.
The Queen was crowned in 1953, in Westminster Abbey, aged just 27. The ceremony took place just over a year after she came to the throne in February 1952. This long gap between her ascension and her coronation was due to the fact she considered it improper to hold a coronation during her period of mourning. Unlike the anniversary of her ascension to the throne, which the Queen sees primarily as a personal occasion remembering her father, the anniversary of her coronation is cause for celebration. That said, when talking to The Telegraph newspaper in 2015, on the occasion of becoming the UK’s longest reigning monarch, the Queen said of her record that it was “not one to which I have ever aspired.”
Such was the enthusiasm for the Queen’s coronation that millions across the country managed to watch it live, even at a time when such viewing figures were unheard of and television was still relatively new. In London, people lined the streets to watch see the Queen and Prince Philip go by in their carriage. Street parties were held in celebration across the UK and the Commonwealth, and commemorative coins and medals were issued.
Some travelled from abroad to be there. Many Canadians came to see the coronation, for instance, while for those back home, on the very same day pilots from RAF Canberra flew BBC film of the ceremony across the ocean so it could be broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. In fact, this was the first non-stop transatlantic flight between the United Kingdom and the Canadian mainland. In all, 750 commentators across the world broadcast the ceremony, with it being translated into 39 languages. Consequently, more than twenty million people worldwide watched the coverage of the Queen receiving the Crown Jewels and taking her place on the throne.
For the 65th (Sapphire) anniversary special coins will again be issued, including a brand new 50 pence piece which has the final words of the Coronation oath, that Queen Elizabeth spoke during her coronation speech: “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.” Other coins have also been released for collectors, including an unusual £4 coin and a star shaped silver coin worth £149. (See here for more information- https://www.bnt.org.uk/events-themes/the-queen/65th-anniversary-of-queens-coronation)
So, only a few weeks after Prince Harry and Meghan start their married life together, the bunting will be up again to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s II outstanding lifetime of devotion to her country.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.