Preparations were well laid – rehearsals were ongoing and rigorous ... the Abbey was enshrouded for its transformation, the choristers practised under a tough regime, the Gold Coach pulled by the white horses were given a few test runs ...
|The Queen at her daily correspondence,|
with the same coloured flowers as were
used in the decoration at the Abbey
The young Queen wore a replica of the Crown as she went about her daily routine - so she could become accustomed to its feel and weight.
Rehearsals – everyone was involved ... the Queen came along 7 or 8 times, the Duke of Edinburgh was Chairman of the Coronation Committee ...
|A replica of St Edwards Crown|
... the choristers took full advantage of the situation ... fed lumps of sugar to the horses, sat in the Gold Coach, tested out the Coronation Chair ... which to this day they do not admit to! Boys will be boys ...
They even had the audacity during the Service to fire a few paper darts down upon the assembled foreign dignitaries!
All choristers were required to attend each and every rehearsal – two professional singers who had to be part of an event at the Festival Hall – they missed out on selection ... the choir master, Dr William McKay, was a tough task master!
They had grub in their robes ... as one chorister said that was polished off in the first few minutes of being in the Cathedral ... ham sandwiches, barley sugars and an apple – it was meant to last the 8 hours ...
The choirs were 400 strong, of which there were 180 trebles ... the choristers alive today remember the massive noise ... the fanfare at the beginning of Zadok the Priest, Handel’s Coronation Anthem, then the orchestra builds up to a crescendo when every member of the choir joins in ...
|The Queen and Prince Philip being led down|
the Aisle at Westminster Abbey on the
occasion of her 60th Coronation anniversary
The choristers today remember the colour – the Abbey shone like never before ... the tv lights (the first time they’d been used in the Abbey) lit everything up ... the stone pillars, the roof, the Gold and Blue carpets to match the Abbey’s paintwork, the crimson mantles of the peers and peeresses, the silks and jewels in turbans of some of the overseas nobles and maharajas ...
Those choristers were traced and invited to the anniversary celebrations, while they clubbed together to commission a special anthem from Bob Chilcott, a British choral composer, to celebrate this 60th anniversary of the Coronation – the anthem is called “The King shall rejoice in thy Strength”.
|The Royal Family's motto|
Two thousand guests were invited to attend the 2013 Coronation anniversary – but in 1953 .... 8,251 guests came – how on earth did the Abbey accommodate that number of dignitaries, nobles et al?
The Surveyor of the Fabric of the Abbey, Ptolomy Dean, showed us how this was achieved, through the archival records containing those plans and documents bound in the book “The Place of Crowning: Its history, Arrangement, and Preparation for the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”.
|Westminster Abbey looking up - the aisle length|
and into the roof
Sir Henry Rushbury, RA, Keeper of the Royal Academy and Head of the Royal Academy Schools, was commissioned to paint the process of making the Abbey suitable for the Coronation.
The watercolours looked wonderful (sadly I cannot find any copy of these) ... and showed the different craftsmen working away, while the Abbey was temporarily converted. 500 people worked on the transformation ...
.... first things first: the floor was covered in three inches of wood, all the statues and sculptures were boxed in – to protect the delicate parts of the Abbey ...
... then they could start on the massive seating in grand stands. The nave had an enormous gallery cascading down from the west window; seats on the side aisles reached right up to the heads of the windows ...
... a small railway was laid up the main aisle, with branch lines reaching out into the transepts... so that:
· 450 tonnes of steel
· 3,000 tonnes of timber
· enough scaffolding to reach form here to Paris could be more easily moved around ...
|Prince Charles looking somewhat bored!|
The fitting out must have been so challenging, a terrifying process to take on inside such a renowned building ... in what was more akin to a dockyard than a Cathedral.
The Folio of the plans show so clearly where everyone was sitting, including the Royal Gallery, where Prince Charles, as a 5 year old, with his grandmother and aunt, including royal guests, were able to see the High Altar.
The peers were in the south transept, the peeresses in the north transept – their robes providing a bank of crimson, a glittering array of diamonds, the ermine trimmings giving added solemnity to the occasion ...
The Plans also showed the medical centres, the vast numbers of lavatories and drinking fountains ... everyone had to be in place by 8.00 am ... and would be there for eight hours!!
Ptolomy Dean described the Coronation Chair, which has not been restored as such ... but maintained as a cherished part of Coronation history ... every Monarch has sat on it since the 13th century.
|King Edward's Chair|
prior to its recent tidying up
Its battered worn appearance reflects its existence over the centuries ... and if one looks carefully at the fabric ... the old patterns of painting and decoration can be seen through the later layers ...
... originally the Chair would have been a gleaming golden thing as befits a ruling Monarch of the 1200s ... but the 18th century graffiti of the Westminster choir boys remains – nothing changes with youngsters does it! ... however Queen Victoria had it painted brown?!?! – thankfully that’s mostly all come off ...
|An example of the canopy over the anointing ...|
but I'm not sure why Queen Alexandra was
also anointed .. but Edward VII was different!
The new crimson Canopy sets the Chair off in its present setting in St George’s Chapel ... the canopy represents the special awning that covered the Monarch being crowned ... the very secret religious part of the Coronation, where the Queen gave herself to God above all, when the anointing with oil takes place ... before she was ‘presented’ to the nation as the new Queen.
Rigorous and thorough preparations were planned and carried through for the Coronation of our Queen in 1953 ... more to follow.
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