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The Crown! The Crowd! Remembering Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation 65 Years Ago

It has been 65 years since Queen Elizabeth became the Queen.

Technically, she became the Queen 66 years ago, after her father, King George VI, died on February 6, 1952. But her coronation didn’t come for over a year after his death, in order to allow time to plan the elaborate event, and in hopes that they’d get a sunny day in June (they didn’t.) As fans of The Crown know, it is also said that the wait was partially for political reasons.

But the delay was well worth it: The jewel-studded occasion was attended by 8,000 guests, which included heads of state, including then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and representatives from the royal families of Sweden, Japan, Denmark and more. In total, 129 countries were represented. The Queen’s son, Prince Charles, was 4 years old, and was thus allowed to attend the festivities, making him the first heir apparent of a Queen to attend a coronation.

The newly-crowned Queen took the Coronation Oath at Westminster Abbey, where the three-hour-long service went off without a hitch. She was crowned with the St. Edward’s Crown, the same one that her father was crowned with 16 years before. The traditional (and heavy!) crown is only ever used at a coronation — the State Imperial Crown is used for other occasions afterwards, like the Opening of Parliament. She also wore the centuries-old coronation ring, on the fourth finger of her right hand, and carried the Orb, a gold sphere topped with a cross covered in diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphire, pearls and an amethyst.

Unlike in previous coronations, the Queen was the only person crowned. Prince Philip was not a King Consort, like the Queen Mother had been a Queen Consort, and was also crowned during her husband’s coronation ceremony. However, following the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was the first person to pay homage to the new monarch.

Three million more lined the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the new monarch riding from the Abbey back to Buckingham Palace. The route was designed to take as long as possible, in order for more people to be able to see the Queen. It took two hours total to make the relatively short journey. She did so in an intricate gilded carriage.

It was also the first coronation to be broadcast on television, with 27 million Britons watching and an additional 11 million listening on the radio. During the radio broadcast, the Queen said her own personal words of devotion to the people of the Commonwealth in her Coronation speech.

“The ceremonies you have seen today are ancient, and some of their origins are veiled in the mists of the past,” she said. “But their spirit and their meaning shine through the ages never, perhaps, more brightly than now. I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”

The day ended with the traditional appearance of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. A Royal Air Force fly past flew over the Mall, despite the rain clouds. And after the sun went down, fireworks lit up the London sky over the Thames.

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The Hidden Good-Luck Charm Sewn Into the Queen’s Coronation Gown – and 4 Other Secrets from the Historic Event

God save the Queen! Those were the shouts heard from inside Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II took the Coronation Oath and officially became the ruling monarch of the U.K and the Commonwealth.

Although Elizabeth ascended the throne as a young 25-year-old princess on February 6, 1952, immediately on hearing of the death of her father, King George VI, it wasn’t until 16 months later on June 2, 1953, that she was crowned, such was the extent of the planning needed. Her first years as Queen are featured in the first season of Netflix’s hit series, The Crown.

Read on for five surprising facts on the 64th anniversary of the Queen’s historic day:

1. It Was the First Televised Coronation

Tech-savvy even back then, Princess Elizabeth was determined to have the ceremony broadcast (much against the disapproval of Sir Winston Churchill). It would be the first coronation to be televised (except for the anointing and the communion) and was broadcast in 44 languages. An estimated 20 million people gathered round their television screens (or those of their neighbors) to catch a glimpse of the pomp and ceremony of the momentous occasion. After the event, sales of televisions rocketed.

2. Her Gown Had a Hidden Good-Luck Charm

Trusted royal couturier Sir Norman Hartnell worked closely with Elizabeth to create a gown in the finest white duchess satin, richly embroidered with national and Commonwealth floral emblems in gold and silver thread. Encrusted with seed pearls, sequins and crystals, the designer added a secret detail for extra luck. Unknown to the Queen, Hartnell included an extra four-leaf shamrock on the left side of the skirt, which was positioned perfectly so that Her Majesty’s hand would rest on it during the ceremony.

3. Top-Secret Staff Were Recruited

There was a shortage of professional coachmen to help transport dignitaries to Westminster Abbey in horse drawn carriages, so millionaire businessmen and country squires offered their services – many dressing up as servants to help take people to the ceremony.

4. Footage Was Flown Across the Atlantic in Military Jets

To make the broadcast available the same day, Royal Air Force bomber jets known as Canberras flew film footage across the Atlantic so that the Canadian Broadcast Company could air it. It was the first non-stop transatlantic flight between the United Kingdom and Canada, and landed in Labrador.

5. The Romance!

Prince Philip was the first person to pay homage to the Queen after the Archbishop of Canterbury. After being lifted on her throne, her husband said, “I Philip, do become your liege man 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 folks. So help me God.” He then kissed her crown and her left cheek.

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