A supporting role at the Coronation

The Queen and Philip (PA Wire)
13:39pm, Fri 09 Apr 2021
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The Coronation was the Queen’s big day, but the Duke of Edinburgh was there supporting her as millions watched the pomp and pageantry of the historic proceedings.

He swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb” and was the first layman to pay tender homage to the newly crowned monarch.

Kneeling before her, he put his hands between hers and declared: “I, Philip Duke of Edinburgh, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth will I bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God.”

He stood, touched her crown and kissed her left cheek.

Unlike a Queen Consort, Philip, as the husband of a reigning Queen, was not crowned or anointed at the Coronation ceremony.

But he did kneel beside her to receive a special blessing from the archbishop.

Rich in religious significance and historical associations, the Coronation was a carnival of celebration.

For a day, street parties banished the hardship of post-war rationing and shortages.

Even atrocious, unseasonal weather could not dampen enthusiasm.

Coronation Day was Tuesday June 2 1953 and people began to bed down in the streets 48 hours earlier on the Sunday to make sure of a standing place along the royal route.

By Monday evening, in pouring rain and driving wind, half a million people were already lining the procession route.

The joyous atmosphere – “Crowds singing in the rain” declared one national newspaper – was crowned with the news that climbers from a Commonwealth expedition had conquered Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

Philip later recalled the news being announced as they prepared themselves for the ceremony.

The occasion was shared with a wider audience through the relatively new medium of television, which came of age with the screening of the ceremony for the first time.

Despite initial reservations, the Queen eventually agreed to the TV cameras being present in Westminster Abbey to capture the historic event.

Licence holders doubled from one-and-a-half million to three million in anticipation, and many people rented a set just for the day.

An estimated 27 million people in Britain alone watched the Coronation live and TV pictures were beamed around the world.

The uncrowned Queen – she actually wore the George IV Diadem on the journey – set out from Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, escorted by the Yeomen of the Guard, the Household Cavalry, and the Royal Bargemaster and Royal Watermen.

Through the unwelcome drizzle, a continual roar followed the Queen’s Gold State Coach from the Palace, along The Mall and in an extended circular route to Westminster.

Philip was with the Queen in the coach as they departed just after 10.30am, pulled by eight grey geldings – Cunningham, Tovey, Noah, Tedder, Eisenhower, Snow White, Tipperary and McCreery.

It was a journey the monarch branded “horrible” many years later. “It’s only sprung on leather,” she said of the coach, adding: “Not very comfortable.”

To and from the ceremony, the duke wore the full-dress naval uniform of Admiral of the Fleet and displayed his Garter Star.

While in the abbey, he wore a coronet and a robe over his uniform.

His page, who followed behind him, was Nigel Rees, a Royal Navy midshipman, who wore a uniform of Edinburgh green.

The sovereign’s procession, as it entered the abbey, was some 250 strong with traditional representatives from Crown, Church and State.

Three bishops carried the paten (Eucharist plate), the chalice and the Bible; peers carried the regalia from the Crown Jewels, and the Lord High Steward carried St Edward’s Crown.

Others in the procession carried two royal maces, three swords symbolising mercy, spiritual justice and temporal justice, the Great Sword of State and St Edward’s Staff.

The Queen’s Coronation dress, by couturier Norman Hartnell, was a far cry from post-war fashions dictated by clothing coupons.

The white satin gown was encrusted with diamonds, gold and silver bullion, seed pearls, crystals, pale amethysts and sequins to create a shimmering effect.

Embroidery in pastel-coloured silks depicted the emblems of the United Kingdom and countries of the Commonwealth.

Her all-white bouquet echoed the symbolic theme of unity with orchids and lily-of-the-valley from England, more orchids from Wales, stephanotis from Scotland, and carnations from Scotland and the Isle of Man.

She wore a diamond collet necklace, made for Queen Victoria, and matching drop earrings, with the gold chain collar of the Order of the Garter.

The Chairs of Estate on which the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were seated during the first part of the Coronation ceremony are now on the dais in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace.

The service began with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher’s declaration to the assembled bishops: “Sirs, I here present unto you Queen Elizabeth, your undoubted Queen.”

Then came the Oath, the Holy Communion and the act of anointing, hidden from the TV cameras and congregation by a canopy held over the Queen’s head by Knights of the Garter.

The archbishop made a sign of the cross on her hands, chest and head, saying the words: “Be thy head anointed with holy oil: as kings, priests and prophets were anointed. And as Solomon was anointed King by Zadok and the priest Nathan the prophet, so be thus anointed, blessed and consecrated Queen over the peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern…”

The Queen was anointed, sitting on the Coronation Chair, having shed all her robes and adornments, and wearing a simple white dress.

Next came the crowning: the archbishop held the St Edward’s Crown above the Queen’s head for a few moments and then lowered it into place.

The crown, made in 1661, weighs four pounds and 12 ounces and is made of solid gold.

It was used by Charles II and is believed to have been adapted from one which belonged to Edward the Confessor.

With the crown in place, all the princes and princesses, peers and peeresses put on their coronets and proclaimed: “God Save the Queen”.

Trumpets sounded and royal gun salutes were fired at the Tower of London and elsewhere.

Homages from the archbishop, Duke of Edinburgh and the senior nobility followed with the acclamation: “God Save Queen Elizabeth. Long live Queen Elizabeth. May the Queen live for ever”.

It had been customary at this moment to proclaim a general pardon for criminals, which was read out by the Lord Chancellor.

This was abandoned but, before the Coronation, the Queen declared an amnesty for deserters from the armed services.

A further deviation from tradition was that a representative from outside the Anglican Church – the Moderator of the Church of Scotland – was present for the first time.

The sovereign finally withdrew to St Edward’s Chapel, changed into a robe of purple velvet and put on the lighter Imperial State Crown for the journey back to the Palace.

The seven-mile return procession was accompanied by 13,000 troops, 29 bands and 27 carriages.

Each Commonwealth prime minister had his own carriage and, for the first time ever, there was a shortage of professional coachmen.

Millionaire businessmen and country squires offered to dress up as Buckingham Palace servants and drive the British and other prime ministers – an offer that could not be refused.

The Queen and the duke made no less than six appearance on the Palace balcony – the final one coming at midnight.

They waved to a huge cheering crowd which was still wild with excitement. Bowler hats were waved high on umbrellas, balloons were released and streamers festooned the Palace railings.

The night came to an end as hundreds of thousands on London’s Victoria Embankment watched a spectacular Coronation fireworks display.

The Queen’s Coronation was a splash of colour for a nation starved of pageantry by the war.

In September 1952, shortly after her accession to the throne, the Queen declared by Royal Warrant that Philip had “place, pre-eminence and precedence” next to herself “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament”.

On February 22 1957, four years after her coronation, she made her husband a Prince of the United Kingdom, making his title HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

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