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The Diamond Jubilee

Published 28 May 2012

a pile of Special Collections books about Elizabeth II's coronation

A look back at the Queen's coronation on 2 June 1953

Elizabeth Windsor acceded to the throne after the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February 1952. The coronation was held more than a year later, observing the tradition that such a festive occasion should not be staged during the mourning period for the previous sovereign.

London was richly decorated in preparation for Coronation Day. Regent Street was festooned with wild roses and Holborn covered in heraldic emblems. Four metal arches supported by fan-shaped designs of tubular steel were put up over Pall Mall. On top of each arch there were two golden lions and two white unicorns. A Princess's coronet was suspended from the centre of each arch.

The coronation took place at Westminster Abbey, where it has been held traditionally since 1067 when William the Conqueror was crowned. During the ceremony Elizabeth made a solemn oath to serve her people. The Archbishop of Canterbury formally crowned the Queen by placing St Edward's Crown on her head.

To secure a good vantage point, many people bedded down in the streets of London two nights before Coronation Day. 2 June was a damp and cold day, but thousands of spectators lined the processional route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey to see the Queen in the richly decorated State Coach. People keen to join in the celebrations at home rushed out to buy their first black-and-white television, crowding round it with family and friends. It was the first coronation to be broadcast on live television, making it a momentous occasion.

Five years later, in October 1958, Queen Elizabeth visited the University of Leeds with the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Mary, the Princess Royal. The Princess Royal was Chancellor of the University of Leeds from 1951-1965. The royal party listened to a concert in the Great Hall and then admired an exhibition of textiles displayed in Central Court.

The Kimber Collection, presented to Special Collections by Michael and Pauline Kimber, is a rich resource for researchers interested in royal history. It contains many fascinating newspapers, articles and books about the Windsor family.

Visit Special Collections and look at some of these treasures in our reading room.