I’m sure many millions of people across the world will know – but just in case ….
65 years ago on Tuesday 2nd June 1953 the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon took place on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth ascended the throne at the age of 25, upon the death of her father, King George VI who had passed away on Wednesday 6th February 1952, and was proclaimed Queen by her various privy and executive councils shortly afterwards. The coronation took place more than a year later because of the tradition that holding such a festival is inappropriate during the period of mourning that follows the death of a monarch and also on account of the need to make preparations for the ceremony. During the service, she took and subscribed an oath to, among other things, govern the peoples according to their respective laws and customs, was anointed with holy oil, presented and invested with regalia, and crowned.
Celebrations took place across the Commonwealth and a commemorative medal was issued. It was the first British coronation to be televised and was the fourth and last British coronation of the 20th century.
The Sunday papers all told of the story – this one is from the Sunday Express – it says:
‘Sometimes a baby’s cry broke the stillness’: Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Princes and Chancellors from 111 nations joined a countless throng of humble people yesterday in the final massive act of homage to Sir Winston Churchill. It was an occasion of pomp and pageantry, pride and sorry, which will not be equalled in the lifetime of any who saw it.
And yet what there was to say could be said simply.
The thoughts of those who stood in the windswept streets and the millions who watched on television were summed up in one message. It was from the Queen, and was in the circular wreath of white flowers – freesias, arum lilies, gladioli, and lilies of the valley – which she sent to the interment at Bladon Church. It was written in her own hand and said:
“From the nation and the Commonwealth:
In grateful remembrance. Elizabeth R”
No one can say with certainty how many people stood and shivered in the bitter east wind to honour Sir Winston. Probably there were around half a million.
This Saturday, 30th January 1965, saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history when Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral was held – regarded by many as a day when Britain ‘stood still’.
The following is based mainly on BBC reports with personal memories included:
‘Thousands of people had paid their last respects to Britain’s greatest wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill who was buried today after a full state funeral. A total of 321,360 people filed past the catafalque during the three days of his lying-in-state.
Silent crowds lined the streets to watch the gun carriage bearing Sir Winston’s coffin leave Westminster Hall as Big Ben struck 09.45. The procession travelled slowly through central London to St Paul’s Cathedral for the funeral service.
Many millions around the world watched the funeral procession at home and abroad as television pictures were beamed from 40 BBC cameras placed along the route.
The mourners were led by Sir Winston’s wife, Lady Clementine Churchill, his son Randolph and daughters Mary Soames and Lady Sarah Audley. The Queen and other members of the Royal family; the Prime Minister Mr Harold Wilson and representatives of 112 countries packed into the Cathedral for the service.
The funeral cortege was accompanied by a 19-gun salute and an RAF fly-past as it began the journey to Sir Winston’s final resting place. At Tower Hill the coffin was piped aboard the launch ‘Havengore‘ for the voyage up the Thames and then toWaterloo Station where the coffin was placed onto a train drawn by a Battle of Britain locomotive named Winston Churchill. Thousands gathered to pay tribute at wayside stations as the coffin passed while, at many football matches, a two-minute silence was observed.
Sir Winston was finally laid to rest in the Oxfordshire parish churchyard of Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace where he was born 90 years before. Only family members were present at his internment.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was one of of the great men of British politics in the 20th century. Over the coming days I’ll tell more about his very varied life but today is the day his life ended.
He had been involved in two world wars – being Prime Minister in the second of these conflicts. After the British general election of October 1951 he had become Prime Minister of Britain for the second time. In 1953 he suffered a serious stroke but remained in the role of Prime Minister until 1955 when he retired from that role. However, he didn’t leave his place in Parliament – remaining a Member of Parliament until 1964.
On 15th January 1965 he suffered a severe stroke and died at his London home nine days later, aged 90, on the morning of Sunday 24th January 1965, 70 years to the day after his own father’s death.
Following his death Queen Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral.