With a royal wedding looming and bumper interest in The Crown, there is no shortage of fascination in all things Windsor, and UK doco The Coronation offers just that.
Remarkably, this is the first time Her Majesty has gone before the cameras to discuss that pivotal day 65 years ago when she was just 27 years old. As narrator Keeley Hawes reminds us, “No British monarch has ever talked about their Coronation on camera until now.”
And with 65 years passing since the last Coronation, most of the public know very little about the tradition and symbolism of the event.
Now the world’s longest living monarch, HM shows continued signs of moving with the times for modern audiences. Sitting cross-legged, speaking from the heart, this is as informal as it gets.
This doco includes archival footage, further interviews with other participants, and historians waxing lyrical about the Crown jewels.
As HM explains, she has witnessed one Coronation (she was 11 when her father ascended to the throne) and been the recipient of a second. To have witnessed 2 events is a rarity indeed.
One of the extraordinary insights is a note written by 11 year old “Lilibet” to her Mummy and Daddy on the day of King George VI’s Coronation.
Joined by historian Alistair Bruce, the Queen watches 1953 Coronation footage, some of it seemingly for the first time. Commenting throughout, she brings a 21st Century sensibility to this regimented occasion. There’s a ripple of humour in her commentary as she remembers what she had to go through on the big day. With such a daunting event, some of the details slipped by her entirely.
Recalling the journey in the Royal Coach, she explains it was, “Horrible. It’s not meant for travelling at all…. not very comfortable.
“We can only go at a walking pace. The horses couldn’t possibly go any faster.”
Yet she travelled halfway around London for all to see.
Bruce was reportedly told not to ask direct questions, but he effectively makes comments which invite wider discussion as HM deems fit.
Of the Imperial State Crown itself she reveals, “It weighs a ton. It’s very solid isn’t it?” adding “It is impossible to tell which is front and back, I suppose.
“You can’t look down to read the speech…. if you did your neck would break. So there a some disadvantages but otherwise they are quite important.”
Of footage capturing the Westminster Abbey ceremony she remarks, “There’s an awful lot of walking backwards, isn’t there?”
Also recalling the big day are Maid of Honour Lady Anne Glenconnor, and 3 genial choristers who formed part of a 400-strong choir in an Abbey of 8000 people. They recall one mishap when the young Elizabeth was thought to be arriving.
“There was a bustle and 8000 people stood up, when from underneath the organ loft came 4 cleaners with carpet sweepers….. everybody laughed and sat down again,” one former Chorister recalls.
There are also insights into how King George VI hid the Crown jewels during Hitler’s assault on Europe, some of which are a surprise to HM. Amid the pomp and ceremony there is also an explanation as to why TV cameras turned away during the anointing of the oil.
Admittedly promos and released footage of this doco have arguably given away the very best bits, but this is incredibly rare access to a most amazing woman. For monarchists it is a must-see, and for those of us who admire from afar, there is plenty to engage.
7:40pm Sunday February 4 on ABC.