King Charles’ coronation brings up memories of the ritual

London –

In 1953, London was still recovering from World War II. The city was bombed, food supplies were tight, and life was boring for children who had never eaten anything as exotic as a banana.

But the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II helped ease that gloom. Central London was bustling with activity as workers built temporary stands along her five-mile route of the Queen’s Procession. An enormous crown hung from a towering arch above The Mall near Buckingham Palace, and shopkeepers filled the windows with colorful banners and merchandise themed to her coronation.

With the coronation of Elizabeth’s son Charles III scheduled for May 6, people are reminded of Elizabeth’s mother’s coronation 70 years ago.

James Wilkinson, then 11-year-old of the Westminster Abbey choir, sang at the ceremony.

front row seat

Wilkinson’s memory of these events begins over a year before his coronation.

Attending a special boarding school for choir members, the choir was taking Latin lessons when the monastery’s large tenor bell began to ring every minute. “The principal came and told us that the King had died,” said Wilkinson. “Of course, what excited us at the time was the fact that there were new coins and stamps with the Queen’s head, because we were all collecting stamps.”

Following the initial buzz, there was the realization that a coronation would take place.

The choir members spent months preparing for the service, learning the music and lyrics for the hymns they sang during the three-hour ceremony. The monastery was closed for preparations.

To quadruple the capacity of the 8,251-guest monastery, tiers of temporary seating will be installed and a temporary annex will be built outside, where participants will wear robes and prepare for the procession. and preparations were made to broadcast the event in still form. A new medium called television. Wilkinson, now 81, remembers being stunned when the choir entered the church for its first on-site rehearsal a few weeks before his coronation.

“We hadn’t been in a monastery for a long time, but I was really surprised to see it because it changed the inside with wonderful new carpets and balconies,” he said. The lights were on and the whole thing was glowing.”

imperial moment

On the island of Dominica, more than 4,000 miles from the Caribbean, still in the fringes of the British Empire, children, too, were preparing for the coronation of their queen, a charming young woman.

Sirius Toussaint, now 83, still remembers the coronation song he learned 70 years ago, laughing as he sweetly sang his blessings to “Our Queen, who is crowned today,” and lost it to the passage of time. I only occasionally come across phrases that are broken.

“In the dust of Abbey Brown, when the bells ring in the town of London, the golden-crowned queen may be crowned with the love of your children.”Hehehe. Yes, I remember! ”

In this photo courtesy of Max Hancock, Queen Salote Tupou III of Tonga sits in a carriage during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation parade in London on June 2, 1953. (Max Hancock via AP)

There were no televisions in the village of St. Joseph, about 10 miles from the capital, Roseau, so the adults huddled around two radios to keep up with what was happening in London.

For Toussaint and his friends, it was a day of food, games and patriotic songs. It’s no different than Empire Day, an annual holiday created at the turn of the 20th century to remind children living in remote British outposts that they were British. .

They played cricket and rounders, drank ginger beer, and ate sweet cakes with margarine and coconut.

“This was the Queen’s coronation,” he said. “Her people were talking about her and all that. We always wanted to meet her…we grew up British. We are British to her.” I was proud of it.”

Toussaint learned about racism when he moved to Preston, in the north of England, to work in the city’s textile mills. And a few years ago, the British government forced the Toussaints to apply for British citizenship, shattering the illusions of a child who once sang about “our Queen.”

Thousands of people from Caribbean countries were caught up in government crackdowns on immigration, and many lost their jobs, housing and benefits when they failed to provide documents proving their right to stay in the country. . The government was forced to apologize and pay compensation for what became known as the Windrush scandal, named after the ship that brought the first Caribbean immigrants to Britain in 1948.

But Toussaint blames Britain’s elected government for the scandal, not the monarchy. Despite the country’s problems, he plans to see the coronation of Charles III on his May 6th.

“At the end of the day, I’m happy to say, ‘Charles, you’re the king. God bless you, and do a good job.'” Until we came up with something better Because that’s the system we have, and that’s where we are. And I happily celebrate it with my neighbors and friends.

Thanks to Airman

Nineteen-year-old Max Hancock, from Sparks, Georgia, was a U.S. Air Force soldier stationed at RAF Brides Norton near Oxford at the time of his coronation.

As Americans, Hancock and his companions had not sworn allegiance to the British monarch, but they knew that the coronation would be a historic event, so they traveled 70 miles to London by bus and train. and joined the crowd, hoping to see the Queen pass. On a foggy and rainy day, an estimated 3 million people filled the sidewalks along the parade route lined with soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Positioned on Regent Street, which was still a high-end shopping district at the time, Hancock scaled the barricade with his camera to get a better view of the 46 marching bands, cavalry, and carriages carrying federal dignitaries and members of the royal family. . We passed by on a roundabout route from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace.

But he only had one roll of film (25 frames) to capture the procession in the days before smartphones and digital cameras.

Then he saw ahead of him “the most beautiful carriage I’ve ever seen,” and thought it must be Elizabeth, and took three or four quick shots. It turns out that she is the mother of her younger sister Princess Margaret and the Queen.

He only had two frames left.

When he saw a golden state coach drawn by eight white horses surrounded by footmen in uniform, he decided it was time to use them.

“I thought the Queen Mother was great, but it didn’t compare to the Queen Mother. It was all gold,” Hancock recalled.

“And like I’ve said many times, looking back, I didn’t think she was such a great beauty queen, but when she passed by, she was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in the world. She was the most beautiful woman in the tank over there.”

With well-deserved pride, Hancock showed slides from an elementary school in Southern Georgia to give kids a close-up look at history. And when the Queen died in September, his local newspaper, the Moultrie Observer, told the story of the day a local boy went to his coronation.

“I was overwhelmed to see that parade, to see the enthusiasm, to see the people that were there,” he said. I knew I would remember it for the rest of my life.”

unforgettable moments

James Wilkinson knew he too was part of something extraordinary, so the future BBC journalist recorded everything he saw in a looping script on the yellowed pages of his diary. .

After the choir arrived at the monastery early in the morning, each boy was given a ham sandwich, an apple, and a hard candy to keep his stomach from growling and wait for the ceremony to begin at 11:15 am. -cropped state robes. Some of them hid miniature bottles of whiskey and brandy under their caps to enhance them while they waited. The excitement that passed through the crowd only withered when it turned out to be an army of attendants with carpet sweepers clearing the way for her majesty.

But Wilkinson’s climax was when the Archbishop of Canterbury raised St. Edward’s crown (a purple velvet hat and a solid gold frame adorned with a jeweled cross) high into the air and slowly lowered it over the Queen’s head. It was time.

Sitting with the rest of the choir somewhere behind the Queen’s right shoulder, he didn’t really see Elizabeth’s coronation moment. I saw.

“I knew this was something I could never forget, and I knew it was the highlight of the service, so I was watching very closely. That’s how I remember it today. “It was an amazing event.”

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