The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – Part 3: A Queen is Crowned

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
The Queen Mother, together with Princess Margaret, rode to the Abbey in a glass coach and took her place in the front row of the Royal Gallery. She was only the second Queen in British history to watch the coronation of a succeeding sovereign. Her Majesty looked very elegant, “glittering from top to toe, diamonds everywhere… the Queen Mother playing second lead as beautifully as she had played first.”

The Peers and other senior members of the State shouted out: “God save Queen Elizabeth.” Trumpets sounded a fanfare.

In her Oath, Elizabeth swore to “Govern the people of the United Kingdom and of her territories abroad, to uphold law and justice tempered with mercy, and to maintain the established Protestant Church.” With her hand on the Bible she went on: “The things which I have here before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God.”

By this time the heat of the television lights was such that some of her maids of honor were beginning to use smelling salts, concealed in their white gloves, to stop from fainting.

The oath was followed by her anointing, a sacred practice which dated back from the Old Testament account of the anointing of Saul and David by Samuel. She removed her diamond headband and crimson train. Her gwon was covered by plain white overgarment. She was escorted to King Edward’s Chair, shielded by a silken canopy held over by four knights of the Garter, the Archbishop of Canterbury said three times, “… be though anointed, blessed and consecrated, Queen over the Peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern.”

For this ceremony he took the oil from the golden Ampulla and used the silver-gilt anointing spoon, the two oldest items in the regalia which were probably used in medieval coronations. The eagle shape of the ampulla symbolized imperial power.

The Queen and her escorts then walked slowly to the side of the train altar into St. Edward’s Chapel, where she put on a white tunic and a rich golden robe. This was in preparation for her Investiture with the outward symbols of her worldly power. Seated on King Edward’s chair, she was handled the golden spurs, which symbolized her devotion to the Code of Chivalry. If she had been a king, the spurs would have been attached to her heels. Instead, she just touched them.

Then, followed the sword of state and the jeweled sword, symbolic of the Sovereign’s quest against evil and her determination to punish those who do them. The Archbishop of Canterbury clipped the armills in the Queen’s wrists. The armills stood for sincerity and wisdom. The Golden Stole and Robe Royal were then shawled on her. She then received the orb with great cross, golden ball, encircled with metal band on top of which is a jeweled arch with a cross. It is the Queen’s emblem of independence and sovereignty.

On her finger she wore the Coronation Ring. It was studded with sapphire and ruby cross of St. George, symbolizing the wedding of the monarch to her people. Highlighting the ceremony was the Crowning. Everyone in abbey rose while the Archbishop placed St. Edward’s Crown on her head. A deafening shout
“God Save the Queen” was heard. All the prince and princess, peers and peeresses then placed their own coronets and caps. Then trumpets horned and gun salutes were made at the Tower of London.

The peers of the realm them paid homage to their new sovereign, but the first to do so was her own husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Afterwards, peers and peeresses lined before her, kneeling as they take their turn, promising “to become your liege man of life and limb.” The Queen then proceeded to St. Edward’s Chapel, where she removed the royal golden mantle and was arrayed in a robe of purple velvet trimmed with gold. She was now a crowned and consecrated monarch.

The heavy St. Edward’s Crown was then removed in exchange of the lighter Imperial State Crown, while holding the Scepter with the Cross in her right hand and clutching the Orb on her left. She left the chapel and processed out of the Abbey.

Culminating the long, three-hour ceremony, the new Queen, in her Crown of State, rode her Golden State Coach amidst tolling bells and loud, joyous cheers from the hundreds of thousands of subjects happy to have their new monarch crowned. The coach ride lasted for almost two hours, passing along main London streets, through excited people, hailing them and thanking them for their endless support.

In a broadcast from Buckingham Palace to the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II summed her feelings and said: “As this day draws to its close I know that my abiding memory will be not only the solemnity and beauty of the ceremony but the inspiration of your loyalty and affection.”

From: Tribute to Her Majesty. Produced and Designed by Serge Lemoine; text by Don Coolican. Scott Publishing Co. Ltd., 1986.

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