Read an 11-Year-Old Queen Elizabeth’s Review of Her Father’s Coronation
In a new documentary debuting Sunday, Queen Elizabeth recalls witnessing her father’s 1937 coronation when she was just 11 years-old. The ceremony had actually been intended for Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII, but Edward VIII unexpectedly abdicated before his reign as sovereign had even formally begun. Elizabeth’s father, George VI, who was suddenly thrust onto the throne, wanted his daughter to feel more prepared for her coronation day than he did for his. As such, the king had his young daughter pen a review of his coronation to ingrain it in her memory.
The report, which was handwritten in a children’s exercise book and preserved in the Royal Archives, offers a refreshing candor about the medieval ceremony. A title page, written in red pencil, reads, “To Mummy and Papa, In Memory of Their Coronation. From Lilibet, by Herself.” Describing the beginning of the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, which took place inside Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth wrote, “We sat down and waited for about half-an-hour until Mummy’s procession began. Then came Papa looking very beautiful in a crimson robe and the Cap of State.”
“I thought it all very, very wonderful and I expect the Abbey did, too,” observed Elizabeth. “The arches and beams at the top were covered with a sort of haze of wonder as Papa was crowned, at least I thought so.”
“When Mummy was crowned and all the peeresses put on their coronets it looked wonderful to see arms and coronets hovering in the air and then the arms disappear as if by magic. Also the music was lovely and the
band, the orchestra and the new organ all played beautifully.”
Referencing her grandmother, Queen Mary, Elizabeth wrote, “What struck me as being rather odd was that Grannie did not remember much of her own coronation. I should have thought that it would have stayed in her mind for ever.”
Her critique continued: “At the end the service got rather boring as it was all prayers. Grannie and I were looking to see how many more pages to the end, and we turned one more and then I pointed to the word at the bottom of the page and it said ‘Finis’. We both smiled at each other and turned back to the service.’”
Afterward, Elizabeth wrote that she and her sister helped themselves to “sandwiches, stuffed rolls, orangeade, and lemonade.” Once back at Buckingham Palace for the grand photo op (above), Elizabeth wrote, “Then we all went to the Balcony where millions of people were waiting below.” The ensuing portrait session was less enjoyable for the young princess, who remembered, “After that we all went to be photographed in those awful lights.”
The Coronation airs Sunday on The Smithsonian Channel.