1 9 5 3 (UK)
The British nation came to a standstill on 2 June 1953.
Thousands lined the streets of London, while in homes and offices the length and breadth of Britain colleagues, neighbours and relatives huddled in corners, all peering avidly at a small piece of furniture with a grey screen, watching magic pictures of the coronation of Elizabeth II.
For many it was their first glimpse of the invention; television.
It was the Queen’s decision to televise the coronation, partly to please her grandmother Queen Mary who was too ill to attend in person, and against the advice of the Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Fears that the presence of television cameras would spoil the great day proved to be totally unfounded, and the vigil lasted all day. Mealtimes were slotted in around crucial moments as girls gossiped about the merits of the Queen’s dress and grandmothers said they had none of this when George V became King.
It was an occasion none would forget.
They shed tears at the shot of the boy Prince Charles in the royal box watching his mother being crowned, reflected in a moment’s silence at that shot of her handbag lying on the seat of the state coach and cheered wildly as the new Queen emerged from Westminster Abbey.
The broadcast began just after 10.00 am with Sylvia Peters introducing Berkeley Smith, the commentator outside Buckingham Palace, and it ended at 11.30 pm when Richard Dimbleby, who was commentating, said goodnight from the empty Abbey.
The return route from the Abbey to the Palace was designed so that the procession could be seen by as many people in London as possible. The 7.2 km route took the 16,000 participants two hours to complete.
Just under 30,000 men took part in the procession – 3,600 from the Royal Navy, 16,100 from the Army and 7,000 from the RAF, 2,000 from the Commonwealth and 500 from the ‘Colonies’.
There were 6,700 reserve and administrative troops, while 1,000 officers and men of the Royal military police were bought in to assist the Metropolitan Police. A further 7,000 police were drawn from 75 provincial forces.
A total of 8,251 guests attended and 129 nations and territories were officially represented at the service.