A right royal progress

Coronation mug 1953

Princess Elizabeth was proclaimed queen after her father, George VI, died early on 6th February 1952. I was only three at the time, living in the then Crown Colony of Hong Kong, so the occasion will have passed me by or, if communicated to me, instantly forgotten. I continued listening to child star Ann Stephens singing They’re Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace on my wind-up gramophone, oblivious to what it was all about.

A year later we were back in Blighty for my parents to buy a house in the West Country, and in early June we joined the crowds on The Mall in London to mark Coronation Day. “Where is she going?” I asked my mother after the young queen’s golden coach rapidly passed us en route from Buckingham Palace towards Admiralty Arch and Westminster Abbey. “Around the roundabout and back again,” was the reply, leading me to expect the sovereign’s speedy return.

What I wasn’t told was that the “roundabout” would in fact be the Abbey, that the coronation service, beginning at 11.15am, would last almost three hours, and that then her return journey was routed around central London, taking from 2.50 to 4.30pm. It was a long wait — around six hours — for a four year old, even one who was nearly five, and thoroughly confusing: why was the coach taking so long to get round the roundabout? Nobody told me.

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