Queen marks 60 years as monarch

Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal family leave Westminster Abbey. Picture: PA
Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal family leave Westminster Abbey. Picture: PA
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IT was a return to past glories, but one where the weather was brighter and warmer. The Queen who shivered through unseasonal rain for her Coronation in 1953 today attended a thanksgiving ceremony at Westminster Abbey to make the 60th anniversary of the day she was crowned monarch.

In a moving but short ceremony the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby described the Queen’s life as one of “devotion and utter self sacrifice - a path she did not choose but one she was called to.”

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

At exactly 11 o’clock The Queen and Prince Philip entered Westminster Abbey to the same music that greeted her in 1953. Back then, aged 27, she was the 38th sovereign to be crowned in Westminster Abbey whose long line of ceremonies began with the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066.

The main tribute was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury who told those gathered in the abbey the Coronation had been “an ordination, a setting aside of a person for service”. He pointed out that during the ceremony the Queen knelt at the abbey’s altar and prayed.

“We do not know what was prayed. Her Majesty knelt at the beginning of a path of demanding devotion and utter self-sacrifice, a path she did not choose, yet to which she was called by God. Today we celebrate 60 years since that moment, 60 years of commitment.”

Back in 1953 families bought their first television to watch the event which was broadcast live with an estimated 27 million Britons tuning in to watch a London drenched in rain. Yesterday there was golden sunshine and the Archbishop said the Coronation had been “the first time the whole nation had watched anything as it happened...Pomp and ceremony on a rainy June day, all so very British, wrapped in time and custom.”

For the first time since 1953 the St Edward’s Crown was lifted from the Tower of London and laid on the High Altar. The service was heavy with symbolism and was divided into four sections: Recognition, Anointing, Homage and Thanksgiving designed to reflect the original coronation service.

Yet this time the public enjoyed greater representation. A flask of aromatic oil, taken from the same batch used to anoint the Queen six decades ago was carried across the abbey by a female scout leader flanked by two school pupils and followed by representatives of British society including a nurse, a naval officers, a lollipop lady and a High Court judge while two Chelsea pensioners brought up the rear.

While sixty years ago the Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, yesterday it was David Cameron, who read from the Book of Kings a passage about the anointing of Solomon.

The actress Claire Skinner, who stars in the BBC sitcom, Outnumbered read out a poem specially written by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, called ‘The Crown’ .

The different faiths of Britain were also united yesterday with representatives of Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhist and Jewish people alongside the various Christian denominations. The new moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rev Lorna Hood was among those who offered a prayer of thanksgiving.

Lady Glenconner, one of the Queen’s six maids of honour in 1953 said today: “I remember standing by the door...I remember a roar coming round, we could hear everybody shouting. Then suddenly around the corner came the amazing golden coach, it was like a fairy tail. She was so beautiful when she came out of the coach. The tiny waist she had, the beautiful complexion, she just looked the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

The difference that six decades can make was illustrated best as the Queen departed. In 1953 a long velvet train was carried by her ladies-in-waiting, but yesterday/today instead of being followed by an ornately embroidered cloak, she was followed by the fruitful evidence of a long life. Her sons Prince Charles, with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Edward, her grandsons, Prince Harry and Prince William along with her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, eight months pregnant with a future heir to the throne.

As the rest of the royal party stopped to look at the newly restored oak chair first used by William the Conquerer almost 1,000 years ago, the Queen walked on by.