Tradition meets modern Britain: Two coronations, 70 years apart

Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother and Prince Charles with Princess Margaret Rose (1930 - 2002) in the royal box at Westminster Abbey watching the Coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The Queen Mother and Prince Charles with Princess Margaret at Westminster Abbey watching the Coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

By Talia Shadwell, ITV News Producer

When the world tuned into the Queen's coronation on June 2, 1953, it was the first ever to be broadcast live on television.

People huddled around television sets to take in the pageantry and splendour - many watching Elizabeth II ascend the throne in her crown jewels, rendered in black and white.

For more than 900 years, coronations had been held at Westminster Abbey.But in centuries gone by, the masses only saw monarchs' likenesses on coins and in paintings.

For full updates on the coronation throughout the day, click here

The earliest photograph of Queen Victoria was taken by a miniature painter in around 1844.And coronation scenes would be depicted by paintbrush until the Queen's grandfather King George V's ceremony was captured in photographs in 1911.

Princess Elizabeth, centre, age 11, is seen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the coronation of her father, King George VI, in 1937. Credit: AP
The coronation procession of King George V returning along Whitehall from Westminster Abbey in London on June 22, 1911. Credit: AP Photo

The cameras caught a young Princess Elizabeth on the Buckingham Palace balcony, smiling and waving at the public alongside her family at her father, King George VI's coronation in 1937.Just sixteen years later, her own coronation would be viewed by 27 million people in the United Kingdom and millions more around the world, and four-year-old Charles would become the first child to witness his mother's Coronation. Now, the Queen's will make history again, as billions will be able watch the historic event unfold in real time anywhere in the world, as King Charles III's coronation is beamed onto their televisions and phone screens in its full, vivid pomp.

Prince Philip wasn’t crowned during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. However, in 1957, the Queen made her husband an official Prince of the United Kingdom.

The official invite for the Coronation revealed Camilla would be crowned alongside her husband and her official title would change to ‘Queen Camilla’.

It is among a series of changes made to a ceremony in which centuries-old tradition and modern technology meet.ITV News takes a look back through the archives to compare two extraordinary historic events, 70 years apart.

Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation in Westminster Abbey 70 years ago. Credit: PA

A slimmed-down affairWhen the Queen took the throne, postwar Britain was still one of the world's foremost imperial powers.The lavish affair was attended by eight thousand public figures and foreign dignitaries, who piled into Westminster Abbey to watch her be crowned. The Abbey and the tramlines that used to run through the Abbey had to be closed for nearly a year, to allow for the construction of annexes for the vast procession.Enormous stands and grand, decorative arches were constructed along the Mall, which runs from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, for spectators to take in the 260-person promenade.

The Queen's coach parades down The Mall under the triumphal arches, on her way to Buckingham Palace following her Coronation.

The coronation was estimated to have cost £1.57 million (the equivalent of around £43.4m in 2019).

Photographer Cecil Beaton, who took the official photos of the Queen’s coronation, said of the spectacle: “In all periods painters have had a shot at recording the ceremony, and with the improvements in the techniques of photography, the scene has become almost familiar. "Yet the spectacle today transcended all preconceived notions. The ceremonial seemed to me as fresh and inspiring as some great play or musical event that was being enacted upon a spontaneous impulse of genius."

Police patrol The Mall, which leads to Buckingham Palace, in the weeks of preparations ahead of the King's Coronation. Credit: AP

The King has planned a 'slimmed down' coronation, with 2,000 official guests inside the Abbey.

There will be no annexe for Charles' shorter procession, and no arches built on the Mall.

However the coronation procession returning to the Abbey following the ceremony will be vast. More than 5,000 troops are expected to parade past the crowds.

The Queen, like monarchs before her, found travelling in the Golden State Coach a rocky journey. Credit: PA

A 'rocky ride'

The King and Camilla, Queen Consort, will travel in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, which features such modern comforts as air conditioning and suspension, in lieu of the older and notoriously rocky Gold State Coach.However the King and Queen Consort will take their return in the older coach. King William IIII, a 19th-century naval officer, described riding in the Gold State Coach as being like being onboard a ship "tossing in a rough sea." It was rated by Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II, respectively, as "distressing," and "horrible."

Charles and Camilla will travel to Westminster Abbey in the much more comfortable Diamond Jubilee State Coach. Credit: PA

A changing oath for a changing Britain?

Archbishop Justin Welby will lead the coronation service, and has hinted that the ceremony will reflect the diversity of modern Britain.Earlier this month, he dismissed reports of any tension between the Church of England and Buckingham Palace about the sacred Christian service, and the King's desire to be as inclusive a monarch as possible for people of all religions.

The service will be "deeply Christian", the archbishop said, but when the details are released, it will demonstrate how it will be "representative of the people of this land."

Archbishop Damianos shows Charles around the St Catherine's Monastery in the South Sinai Desert in Egypt in 1995. Credit: Martin Keene/mk/ PA

Charles' passion for theocracy as is well-documented as his interest in environmentalism.

The King, a devout Protestant, is said to have become interested in other religions and in philosophy around the 1970s.

Coronation oaths change slightly with every monarch, and Charles' interest in other faiths has long sparked speculation the tradition may be altered to reflected his desire to include multiple faiths.

In a 1994 documentary, Charles explained he wished to be seen as a "defender of faith" when he took the throne, rather than a monarch's traditional title of Defender of the Faith - a declaration which attracted controversy at the time.Nearly a decade later, he said he would retain the traditional title, but added that he views ensuring other people's faiths can also be practised as a duty of the Church of England.

Julie Siddiqi, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Justin Welby and other faith leaders join the Big Help Out, as part of Coronation celebrations. Credit: PA

Official statistics show Britain has grown less Christian in recent decades - and less religious overall. While growing numbers of people identify as belonging to other faith communities.

Shortly after his accession, Charles declared that his duties as sovereign included "the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions, and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals."

When Charles is presented with the King James Bible and place his hand on it to take his coronation oath, many will watch with interest to see whether he alters, in a reflection of the changing makeup of Britain today.

The royal family attend a traditional Christmas Day church service, at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, in 2017. Credit: AP

The anointing

The moment a monarch is anointed is regarded as the most sacred - and crucial - part of the ceremony.Lambeth Palace says: "The King’s anointing sets him apart to fulfil a vocation and begin a new life as Sovereign, dedicated to the service of all."At the late Queen's coronation, cameras were diverted away to allow privacy for the sacred moment, in which she was sheltered from public view by a canopy as she was anointed with holy oil.

Recently, speculation grew Charles may choose to allow the moment to be publicly filmed, but it has since been confirmed that the anointment will be kept private.

The Queen Consort, however, will be anointed in full public view at the coronation in a break with tradition, and in contrast to the late Queen Mother’s coronation.

Camilla will also be presented with a ring which “marries” her as consort to the King.

She will also only touch the controversial ivory Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove, and the gold Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross, rather than holding them like the Queen Mother.

The oil will be based on the same formula used on the Queen, which has remained unchanged for centuries.

The oil is made from the olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives, at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene - the burial place of Charles' grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece - and the Monastery of the Ascension.

The olives were pressed outside Bethlehem and perfumed with sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin and amber.

The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon used for the anointing of a monarch, last used at the Queen's Coronation in 1953. Credit: Matt Dunham/ PA

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the oil "reflects The King’s personal family connection" with Jerusalem and "demonstrates the deep historic link between the coronation, the Bible and the Holy Land."

Instead of being surrounded, by four garter knights and canopy, the King will use a screen instead.

A guestlist reflecting a changing world

In 1947, on her sixteenth birthday, Princess Elizabeth made her now infamous broadcast, dedicating her life to serving the Commonwealth. 

Five years later, she was in Kenya when she received news of her father’s death. The Queen would devote much of her reign to redefining the Crown's relationships with nations in a post-imperial world that was reckoning with colonialism's bloody history, and Britain's declining influence.

The Queen and her host, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana dance during her 1961 Africa Tour. Credit: AP

In the years since, many more countries have divorced from the Crown, and the Queen's death freshly stirred up republican debates in some former colonies.

Jamaica, already independent, could soon become the first Commonwealth country to remove King Charles as head of state, following Barbados in ending its relationship with the Queen in 2021.

Following Her Majesty's death, Australia's new prime minister laid the foundations for polling the country on becoming a republic in the near future.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Kingston, Jamaica, at the beginning of 2022. Credit: PA

But many independent Commonwealth nations have affirmed their symbolic relationship with the Crown, and when the King takes the throne, his guests will be leaders of countries that count themselves Britain's friends and allies - if no longer members of its realm.

His coronation will be attended by a shrinking coterie of European royals, as his peers respond to changing public sentiment by slimming down their monarchies.

Most recently, Queen Margrethe of Denmark stripped her four grandchildren of royal titles, following similar moves by the other royal families of Europe.

Denmark's Queen Margrethe II during celebrations for her 83rd birthday, on her Amalienborg Castle balcony in Copenhagen. Credit: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP

Did you know?

Here's a piece of trivia for Coronation week pub quizzes.On the same day the Queen ascended the throne, news reached Britain that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had made history by becoming the first in the world to conquer Mount Everest, days earlier.

Tenzing Norgay of Nepal (R) and Edmund Hillary of New Zealand show the kit they wore when conquering Everest. Credit: AP

The expedition's success was branded by the princess as a "Coronation gift for the new Queen."

The Queen presented the 14 members of the expedition with special edition Coronation medals.

In the seven decades between coronations, more than 6,000 mountaineers have summited the world's highest peak.

Irish republicans will attend the King's Coronation

Coronations, like state funerals, tend to provide a snapshot of the geopolitics of the times.The King's accession comes amid an era of change in the relationship between the Crown and the island of Ireland.

In a landmark nod to reconciliation, Irish republican leaders will make history by attending the coronation.

The King and the Queen Consort greet Ireland's President Michael D Higgins at a service in Belfast following the Queen's death. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill on Wednesday confirmed she, too, had accepted an invitation to the coronation, and would join the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, at the ceremony.Her announcement came shortly after Good Friday Agreement 25th anniversary commemorations, and amid ongoing post-Brexit disagreements over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Ms O'Neill, who will be Northern Ireland's First Minister, if the DUP agrees to form an Executive, wrote "we are living in a time of great change," and that she believed representing the whole community would advance "peace and reconciliation through respectful and mature engagement."

The King and Queen Consort have invited others to try the recipe. Credit: PA

A coronation menu change for the ages

When the Queen held her coronation luncheon, 1950s Britain was still emerging from wartime rationing.

Her Majesty's dish of coronation chicken- cold chicken in a curry cream sauce, also known as 'Poulet Reine Elizabeth,' became a British classic.

The original recipe called for for dried apricot not raisins, and used curry powder instead of Indian curry paste, as fresh spices were difficult to come by in post-war Britain.

The explosion of choice driven by an expanding global food trade and the influence of mass migration has reshaped contemporary Britain's diet.

Coronation chicken today is often flavoured with curry paste made from scratch, and with additions such as flaked almonds, raisins and crème fraîche, instead of mayonnaise.

Growing numbers of consumers in Britain eat far less meat and dairy than we did in the 1950s. Like Prince Harry's wife, Meghan Markle, increasing numbers follow vegan diets.

The king's vegetarian coronation quiche is a take on the traditional French open-baked tart, features broadbeans, spinach and tarragon encased in a short-crust pastry base.

Coronation chicken vol-au-vents served in the Ballroom of Sandringham House during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. Credit: PA

Coronation celebrations

The coronation quiche is set to be the centrepiece of street parties up and down the country over the new bank holiday weekend.

The Queen's coronation was celebrated with fireworks over the River Thames, and street parties too.

The Queen waves from Buckingham Palace's balcony after her Coronation, flanked by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Credit: AP

While the coronation takes place on Saturday, May 6, Monday has been declared a public holiday, giving 2023 an extraordinary three May bank holiday weekends.

But it will also be marked by strikes, as the coronation comes amid months of industrial disputes by nurses, teachers and civil servants, amid a deepening cost of living crisis.

To celebrate the King's ascent to the throne, iconic locations across the UK will be lit up using projections, lasers, drone displays, and illumination.

The King's Coronation Concert will be headlined by Katy Perry, Take That and Lionel Ritchie, and hosted by Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville.

Listen to the ITV News Royal Rota podcast