Recollections... Harry Foren
Foren expresses some thoughts on the Jubilee and memories
of the Coronation
In February 1952 Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Phillip were on their way to Australia for an official visit. They had stopped over at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya. On the morning of February 7th King George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham. With Queen Elizabeth he had seen the couple off at London Airport a week earlier. Although the King had been ill, suffering from lung cancer, the news of his death was a shock to the whole nation. He and his Queen had stayed in London through the worst days of the war and as a couple they were universally loved and respected, and the nation grieved.
The new Queen, Elizabeth II, flew home and was proclaimed Queen. The sombre mood lasted until after the funeral and then people's minds turned to the future and the New Elizabethan Age as some called it. In London preparations were made for the Coronation of the first Queen for 115 years. For the first time there would be television to take the service and its pageantry into the homes of the nation. Sales of this new-fangled gadget soared, even though it was all black and white.
But it was not only in the capital that people prepared to celebrate the Coronation of their new monarch. In towns and villages preparations were made for street parties, parties in village halls, parties everywhere. The streets were hung with bunting, pubs applied for extra licences. A public holiday was, of course, declared for Coronation Day. Many people went to London and were happy to sleep in the streets and parks adjacent to the route of the procession. By the time the procession started the pavements were lined 10-20 deep.
For my part my wife and I, together with our 5 year old son, accepted an invitation from a young couple in the flat below us who actually owned a television set. I think it was a 9 or 10 inch screen and the picture was black and white but to us, especially my son, it was like magic. We watched the procession of Kings and Queens and Heads of State from around the world.
I'm sure you will understand that at this distance in time my memories are blurred but some things do stand out. There was the almost clockwork precision of the procession. The noise of the music and the crowds and above all the moment the crown was placed on the head of this beautiful and self assured young Queen a moment of great emotion accompanied by cries of "Vivat Regina" and then the joyful ringing of the bells. The Queen pledged her life to serving her country and the Commonwealth a pledge she has surely met to the full.
On Coronation Day many tributes were paid to her but perhaps none more fitting than that of Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing who dedicated their conquest of Everest to her. For my part I can only echo the cries of the congregation and say VIVAT REGINA.
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