LONDON — Pamela Towes was 18 and still in her nurse’s uniform and cap when she drove into central London after her night shift, eager to catch a glimpse of the new Queen Elizabeth on the day of her coronation.
It was the massive crescendo of hype she remembers today, the 88-year-old shuddering with joy as she looked back when Britain, still reeling from the quota system eight years after the end of the Second World War, presented itself forcefully to be seen. Extravagance and splendor. Since the beginning of a historical era.
“We climbed over the barriers and the crowd was really deep,” Taos said.
“Then all of a sudden we heard a huge roar, and we knew the Queen might have been coming,” she said, her eyes shining clearly at the memory through a pair of gold-rimmed glasses.
And they all adorned their bedspreads with red, white and blue ribbon, a small sign of excitement to welcome Elizabeth, 27, as the new head of the royal family on the brink of the Technicolor era.
For Brenda Piper, who slept on the pavement to secure a place along the route of the procession, there was a sense of amazement at the “spectacle” of the Queen passing by in a golden carriage.
“That Elizabethan era, it really started like that,” she said, holding a black and white photo of herself with friends that day. “The next thing was coffee, then spaghetti bolognese, then mini skirts. So that was really the beginning.”
Taos and Bieber were two of 12 people who spoke to Reuters about their recollections of the Queen’s coronation on June 2, 1953 before her son King Charles’ coronation on May 6, with much of the same pomp and pageantry. procession. And a shorter party.
They were among the 3 million people who lined the route of the parade in London, among those attending street parties, watching television for the first time or watching from thousands of miles away in the British colonies.
Elizabeth, who died last September at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne, became queen in 1952 after the death of her father: according to tradition, there is a time difference between succession and coronation.
Not everyone was giddy that day in 1953.
Olive Goldsmith, now a retired refugee council employee, said her experience was shaped by two friends who provided an outsider’s point of view, one who spent her childhood in British ruled India and the other in Nazi-occupied Prague.
“The two were very intrigued to see how the native Englishmen behaved,” she said, adding that she did not remember much of the “property” because they lived in an area known for its “socialist principles”.
Milton Job, the writer at the time in then British-ruled Nigeria, attended a local celebration in which schoolboys joined local chiefs and expatriate chiefs and officers. “I will never forget her,” he said.
He later moves to Britain, only expecting to stay there for three years, but is still living in London in 2023 after establishing contacts in the country.
“I expected the best and for myself, I wasn’t distracted by anything negative, although you can’t dismiss some people who have never seen a black man.
“We were here to study, we were here with a purpose.”
Eve Harwood, who was 13 when she watched the Singapore coronation, said she remembered wanting to move to England one day. “It was something I really wanted to try,” she said. She moved to Britain in her thirties.
Many of those who spoke to Reuters recalled the excitement at the time, seeing the young queen as a symbol of a new beginning for Britain.
In contrast to current sentiment, Britons are facing the greatest squeeze in living standards since records began in the 1950s.
Alex Falk, who worked with coronation photographers, said Britain had slipped in the rankings since the 1950s, while others lamented that the country and its social fabric had changed so much.
“I feel sorry for the younger generation today,” Philip Williams said. “I think things are probably a lot more difficult now than they were in my day.”
Like the others, he plans to attend Charles’ coronation, and like the others, he wishes the King good luck.
But he warned: “This time I have to take it easy, especially at my age.”
Writing by Muvija M Editing by Kate Holton and Frances Kerry