On June 2, 1953, a large crowd gathered in the streets of London to catch a glimpse of their soon-to-be queen, Elizabeth II.
Her father, King George VI, had died a little more than a year before. During the months between his death and his oldest daughter’s coronation, his countrymen mourned for him deeply. He had done much to promote their unity and boost their morale after the dark days of World War II.
But the British had great hopes for their new monarch. Whenever she had appeared in public, she had always borne herself with dignity and responsibility. Her service as a second lieutenant during the later years of the war had endeared her to her future subjects, and her husband, Prince Philip, was nearly as popular. Although he had been the prince of Greece, he had actively served in the Royal Navy during the war, and had renounced his Greek title to become a British citizen. On the eve of his wedding with Elizabeth, he received a new title — Duke of Edinburgh. The British expected much from this royal couple, and they gladly thronged to the procession to see their new queen pass by.
All the members of the Commonwealth participated in this spectacular pageant. The Yeomen of the Guard were accompanied by the Canadian Mounties. Traditional Pakistani headdresses vied with the wide-brimmed hats of New Zealanders and Australians for attention. Uniformed Malaysians marched in the procession, as did police from the Solomon Islands. Sultan, prime ministers, and other heads of state rode in carriages through the streets to witness the coronation. At end of the procession was the Gold State Coach, carrying Elizabeth herself as she made her way to Westminster Abbey.
And what better place could there be for a ceremony so steeped in tradition? As the future queen proceeded to the chapel of Edward the Confessor, all around her lay the resting places of monarchs, statesmen, poets, explorers, and other famous citizens of England. In front of the High Altar stood the coronation throne, where nearly every monarch of England since William the Conqueror had been crowned. Enclosed within the throne was the Stone of Scone, upon which the Scottish kings of old had been crowned, and which had been stolen by Scottish nationalists only two and a half years before, but returned a few months later. To this throne Elizabeth proceeded while cameras followed her every move, making her coronation the world’s first major international event to be broadcast on television. To ensure the citizens of Canada could watch the proceedings, film was flown over the Atlantic to Newfoundland three times that day, making yet another first — the first nonstop flights between Britain and Canada.
Countless eyes in both countries eagerly watched as Elizabeth took the oath to govern her countries according to their laws, to administer law and justice with mercy, to uphold Protestantism, and to protect the Church of England and its clergy. As the Archbishop of Canterbury placed the crown on her head, Queen Elizabeth II entered her new role as the head of the British Commonwealth, a symbol of unity and impartiality.
This role has little real power associated with it, however. Parliament carries most of the power in the British government, even more than Congress does in our own country. England has no written constitution and the “constitution” therefore says whatever Parliament, chiefly the House of Commons, decides. As one might imagine, this rather arbitrary authority combined with a strong two-party system can lead to a great deal of political tug-of-war. To ensure that the monarch is able to rise above the politics, executive authority is vested in the prime minister and his cabinet, similar to the American presidency. The queen’s duties are primarily ceremonial.
Queen Elizabeth II, now more than 80 years old, has passed some of her royal responsibilities off to her oldest son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. However, she remains just as beloved in the hearts of her subjects as ever, and has given no indication of plans to abdicate.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
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Accession and Coronation
With film and descriptions. From the official website of The British Monarchy. (Use menu on left.)
Early Life and Education
Biography of Queen Elizabeth II. (Use menu on left.)
60 Facts About the Queen
From the official website of The British Monarchy.
The history of coronations at Westminster Abbey.
Information on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.
British Royal Family Tree
Includes current line of succession to the throne.
A look at the architecture of Westminster Abbey.
Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall
Popular free public domain work covering the history of England from Albion through Queen Victoria.
The Story of the English by H.A. Guerber
Another popular free public domain work covering the history of Britain.
Unit Studies & Lesson Plans
A Multiage Unit on the United Kingdom
Very interesting and comprehensive 75-page download written for elementary ages covering everything from the people and geography to coats of arms and building catapults.
Kings and Queens — England: The Golden Age
Ten-lesson Core Knowledge unit that includes map work, worksheets, timelines and rubrics for evaluation.
Kings, Queens and Castles
Updated unit from Karen Caroe.
Printables & Notebooking Pages
Printable map for notebook.
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.