As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years on the throne, we’ve mined the archives for accounts of her ascension and coronation. Here’s the first report of the young queen’s acceptance of what she called “this heavy task that has been laid upon me.”
New Queen Takes Oath, Joins Family in Sorrow
Flags Go Up During Ancient Ceremony; Elizabeth II Sets Father as Example
Associated Press, Feb. 9, 1952
LONDON, Feb. 8 (AP) — With ancient pomp, Britain tightened the skeins of sovereignty around young Elizabeth II today, then released her temporarily to her sorrowing family.
Humbly, she has pledged to be a good Queen. In medieval pageantry over streets of golden sand, she was formally proclaimed “Queen of this realm and of her other realms and territories, head of the Commonwealth, defender of the faith.”
Then she joined her family in the red brick mansion at Sandringham, the 15,578-acre country estate where King George VI died early Wednesday. Queen Mother Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth and the new Queen’s two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, were there to welcome her.
The King’s Body was taken shortly afterward from the mansion to the Sixteenth Century church on the royal estate.
The gorgeous ceremonies of proclamation unfolded throughout the British Isles and in many lands across the seas.
For six hours, Britain’s deep mourning for the late King was lifted and flags flew at full staff.
Thousands jammed the ancient streets and squares of London to hear the proclamation read out at five places. They joined in rousing cheers for their new monarch and sang full-throated their anthem: “God Save the Queen.”
With queenly composure, Elizabeth stood this morning before the 192 members of her Privy Council in historic old St. James’ Palace to take the oath of accession.
“Your royal highnesses, my lords, ladies and gentlemen,” she said.
“By the sudden death of my dear father I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty.
“At this time of deep sorrow, it is a profound consolation to me to be assured of the sympathy which you and all my peoples feel towards me, to my mother, and my sister, and to the other members of my family.
“My father was our revered and beloved head, as he was of the wider family of his subjects: The grief which his loss brings is shared among us all.
“My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than that I shall always work, as my father did throughout his reign, to uphold the constitutional government and to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples, spread as they are all the world over.
“I know that in my resolve to follow his shining example of service and devotion, I shall be inspired by the loyalty and affection of those whose Queen I have been called to be, and by the counsel of their elected Parliaments.
“I pray that God will help me to discharge worthily this heavy task that has been laid upon me so early in my life.”
Reports of the actual coronation ceremony of the queen, which took place more than a year later, have many parallels to last year’s royal wedding between Prince William and Duchess Catherine, nee Kate Middleton. Spectators camped on the streets for a glimpse of the procession, and speculation about the queen’s dress reached a fever pitch. It, too, was white. Accounts of the pre-coronation rituals included details of toddler Prince Charles misbehaving. From The Washington Post’s archives:
Coronation Fever Grips London on Eve of Rites
Huge Crowds Line Procession Route; Queen Tends Calmly to State Affairs
By Relman Morin, June 2, 1953
London on Coronation Eve was in a state of joyous hysteria, but Elizabeth II approached her great hour in a spirit of serene composure.
A late announcement gave details of the Queen’s coronation dress — a secret closely guarded for months — and that added conversational food to a menu already deep in excitement. The regal gown of white satin, blending symbolism and practicality, is embroidered in pearls and diamonds and is worth untold thousands of dollars. Six workers toiled 3,000 hours on the embroidery alone. . . .
At Westminister Abbey, the preparations were complete.
The crown jewels were brought to the abbey and placed under heavy guard through the night. Normally kept in the Tower of London, the fabulous jewels were sent secretly to the crown jewellers some days ago to be polished and made ready for the coronation.
The Stone of Destiny — or Stone of Scone, as the Scots contend — was placed in position in the throne of King Edward, one of the three chairs the Queen must occupy in the 2 1/4-hour ceremony. . . .
The press of people around Buckingham Palace . . . were hoping for a glimpse of the royal family, and they got one — several appearances, apparently unauthorized, of 4 1/2-year-old Prince Charles, the Queen’s son and mischievous darling of Britain’s millions.
He appeared at the window, parting the curtains, waving and cavorting in great glee.
Sixty years later, those crowds still cavort at the sight of the royal family: