Book Review: Coronation Day 1953

The day of the coronation, June 2, 1953, was wet and cold, but nothing dampened the ardour of those determined to enjoy it. I can confess that I can recall none of it, havingbeen confined to my pram on the balcony of our London home, but when the BBC re-showed the entire day in 1977, I relished every moment.

This book reminds us that the Anointing is the most reverent part of the service, and ‘sets the sovereign apart and indicates the divine origin of regal authority’.

It is clear that the coronation of George IV was the most splendid, not to mention expensive, and also that earlier coronations did not go with the meticulous precision of the present Queen’s.

The King in his Royal Robes:the costumes for the coronation of George IV deliberately evoked comparison with history. Christopher Lloyd gives many details from the day. I did not know that the popular dish (the recipe is given in the book) of coronation chicken was devised by Constance Spry in 1953. It could not have been served but for the development of the modern refrigerator.

Ceremony and Celebration also features the coronation paintings of Feliks Topolski, which will be shown at this year’s Buckingham Palace summer opening. These hung for many years in the Palace, and show the processions, rather than the ceremony itself.

Because I know the faces, robes, uniforms and orders, I confess I favour exactness of detail. But Topolski can also be enjoyed from this point, as from what appears to be a kaleidoscope of muddled colours, the participants emerge: The Duke of Norfolk, Churchill, a page of honour, a trumpeter, and even a grotesque caricature of the poor Queen of Tonga.