The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
For too long Britain, particularly the north, which had been so bombarded, had laboured under the shadow
of the war, was quick to embrace with open arms arrangements to celebrate the coronation of its new, young queen, which heralded the start of a new era and beginning for all. The New Elizabethan Age.
The main festivities, organised by our Urban District council, were to begin on the morning of the 31st May with a service at St John the Baptist Parish Church, followed in the evening by a huge open-air service on the Cricket Ground. The next day Mexborough Chamber of Trade was to present the Chairman of Mexborough Urban District Council with a splendid, gold, bejewelled Chain of Office. A vast Coronation Ball was planned for the Empress Ballrooms, which was to extend from 8pm to lam the following morning. Coronation Celebrations were to last for a full week and the height was to be a pageant, the theme of which was to be Tudor, reflecting the 'New Elizabethan Age' by mirroring the old. It was to commence at 1:30pm on Saturday 6th June at Highwoods and proceed through the streets of Mexborough culminating in an extensive pageant and gala on the Athletic Ground.
But "the best laid plans of mice and men". The morning of the 2nd June 1953 dawned terribly and was followed by a deluge of rain, wind and temperatures more reminiscent of bleak midwinter rather than flaming June.
In London at 10:20am wrapped in waterproofs, the crowds who had been waiting patiently in the rain for hours witnessed the magnificent gilded Royal State coach pulled by eight white horses leave Buckingham Palace. Rather than being driven four were mounted by Postillions, each wearing gold braided jackets and velvet caps, accompanied by Footman and Yeoman of the Guard. Inside sat the Queen wearing a white silk gown embroider ed with emblems from the Commonwealth. With her sat Prince Philip in the full dress uniform of an admiral of the fleet.
The Queen's arrival at the Abbey was heralded by a fanfare of trumpets. Then the first of the four phases of coronation, 'the recognition' then commenced. The archbishop and all the great offices of state went to the east, west, and north of the Abbey and shouted, "Sirs, I here present to you Queen Elizabeth your undoubted Queen" to which the response came "God Save Queen Elizabeth".
The signing of 'The Pledge of Oath' then followed. This states that the Queen is subject to the law and must rule by it. The communion then began by the Queen being anointed with Holy Oil and dedicating herself to the service of the people for her lifetime. She then, bereft of her splendid gown and wearing only a simple white garment was guided to the Coronation Chair containing the Scottish Stone of Scone. After sitting, a canopy of gold cloth was held over her by four Garter Knights, the Archbishop then placed his thumb into the Holy Oil and anointed her hands, breast and head. The Scottish Moderation then presented her with the Holy Bible.
The Queen then received all the emblems of sovereignty, the vestments, spurs, jewelled sword, the orb, ring, royal sceptre and rod of equity and mercy.
The supreme moment of the coronation service had now arrived; the Archbishop firstly dedicated the Crown of St Edward at the High Alter, then standing before the Queen he gently placed it on her head. At the precise moment all the princes, peers of the realm, nobility, kings of arms, etc. all shouted "God Save the Queen" replacing their coronets as they did so. Trumpets sounded, bells pealed, and salvoes of cannon fire could be heard from the Tower of London and St James Park, announcing to the world that the Queen had been crowned.
She was then enthroned, by the Archbishop, bishops and peers lifting her onto the Raised Throne, there to be given homage by her subjects. The first to do so were the Archbishop and Prince Philip who in turn knelt at the Queen's feet and placed their hands between her's
stating "I swear to become your leageman of life and limb, and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto you to live and die against all manner of folk. So help me God". The steps of the throne were then ascended and the Kiss of the Oath of Fealty of the Realm in order of seniority, paid homage.
After putting aside her crown, sceptre and rod, the Queen and her husband received the Holy Sacrament and the Queen and all her nobles, went into St Edward's Chapel where on emerging it was seen that she had changed into the white silk embroidered, • embasened gown she had arrived in, with this she also wore a Royal Purple robe, and wore the Imperial Crown which was much lighter in weight, she held the sceptre in her right hand and the orb in her left.
At 3:05pm the vast procession containing 10,000 infantry and cavalry from the British Isles and Commonwealth left Westminster Abbey to return to Buckingham Palace.
At last after six and a half hours away the Queen was again at Buckingham Palace and on mounting the balcony she was saluted by a fly-past of the RAF. The vast crowds chanting, "We want the Queen" summoned her repeatedly to the balcony, throughout the night. Then, as 'Big Ben' chimed midnight the queen made her final appearance to deafening cheers.
This had been the first coronation of a new age, and one with a difference, as for the first time in history the populous could witness the whole proceedings as if they were there' themselves. The decision by our queen to request of the Coronation Commission that they should change their minds and allow the coronation to be televised was an inspiration as it saved the day for many due to the weather.
My grandfather, after trimming Mexborough with flags, buntings and lights, set about doing the same with the street where he lived. He was also one of those, who for the first time, was the proud owner of a G.E.C. television set, with an eight inch screen, purchased from the Mexborough Urban Council electrical showroom on Adwick Road, especially for the occasion. As the deluge of rain descended, friends, relations and neighbours, all bringing home-made confectionery, put additional coal on the open fire, gradually removed the furniture from his small living-room and converted it into a tiny cinema with the aid of dining-room chairs which everyone had brought.
The younger patients of Montagu Hospital were also among those who viewed it all on T.V. This was followed by a re-enactment of the coronation as ten year old Patricia Wood of Conisbrough was crowned on a throne draped in white satin.
Denaby, having newly installed electric light used it to its best advantage as the headgear and manager's office of Denaby Colliery sported a floodlit crown and message. Not to be outdone, the Miner's Welfare Institute also had a floodlit crown and many other patriotic symbols could be seen illuminated in the windows of houses throughout the village. Every hall, club, institute and public room was taken up by street parties where splendid teas were provided for young and old alike Despite the atrocious weather a twenty-minute film was made by Mr R. Smith of the celebrations held in Swinton, which was shown at the Roxy Cinema in that town.
In Mexborough many braved the elements to hold celebrations in church halls, schoolrooms, and even garages. Teas were taken, in the pouring rain, to people unable to attend celebrations. Pubs and working men's clubs came to the fore as, those that were able, went indoors to drink copious toasts to the young queen in `Coronation Brew', which was stated to be "too strong and too much". Jean Bart and her soldier escort braved the lashing rain to lead a parade from Victoria Street to Roman Terrace School, on Wath Road, where celebrations had been diverted indoors. The South Yorkshire Times stated, "Mexborough was equal to the weather and celebrated the crowning of its sovereign with true South Yorkshire enthusiasm".
Mexborough's week of coronation celebrations was brought to a climax by a Period Pageant the Saturday following the coronation and the weather couldn't have been more different as hundreds of people who came to watch the procession and attend the pageant were bathed in brilliant sunshine.
The procession made a colourful spectacle bedecked as they were in medieval costume. At Post Office Square the York Herald and the Standard Bearer, both from Wentworth Pony Club, after a fanfare of trumpets, rode forward to ask permission to enter the town. The Chairman of Mexborough Urban District Council, the sunlight shining on his gold bejewelled new Chain of Offices then cut the red tape spanning the road, allowing them to pass.
With much clattering of hooves the procession continued on its way headed by a carriage surrounded by pike men and carrying Queen Elizabeth I and her ladies-in-waiting. The lady who took the part of this illustrious lady was later to be known to us all, as she became our beloved Chairperson joyce Thomson, who sadly died a few years ago.
To a fanfare of trumpets the climax of the day arrived, "The Tableaux of Eight Reigns". It covered eight hundred years of history and took in the various kings and famous characters of each century. First onto the vast stage came King Alfred, followed by Richard the Lionheart, John of Gaunt, Henry V, Archbishop Cranmer, Samuel Pepys and finally Elizabeth I (Joyce Thompson). The central throne remained empty throughout carrying the symbols of sovereignty.
Finally the last moment arrived and the combined choirs of infants, Juniors, and secondary schools sang and Mexborough Military Band played "Long Live Elizabeth" specially arranged for the occasion by Fred Tupling, director of the band.
The last act came when the Union Jack was broken from the flagstaff. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Written by your Archivist J.R. Ashby.
Information obtained from: The South Yorkshire Times, The Country Life Book of the Silver Jubilee By Patrick Montague-Smith.