Royal London Landmarks!
On June 2 1953, a young woman called Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom.
As she processed solemnly into Westminster Abbey, that cavernous place of worship in Central London, just a short walk from the British Houses of Parliament, the eyes of the world were upon her.
As Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, an estimated 11 million people listened to the Coronation Ceremony on the radio and a further 27 million people in Britain watched on TV. This in the days when TV sets were still a rarity in Great Britain. Indeed, many people used the Coronation as the excuse to buy their very first TV and those who did not do so gathered in neighbours' or family sitting rooms to watch the ceremony live on the strange little box with the black and white pictures which took centre stage in the home for that day.
Today you can visit the place where Elizabeth took her oath of consecration, was crowned and invested with all the regalia and titles that come with being the British monarch. Because on that Coronation day, she didn't just become Queen of the UK but of many other nations including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon.
And as you walk the length of the magnificent Abbey you, like the millions who watched the Coronation ceremony those many years ago, can marvel at the awesome and overwhelming responsibility that Queen Elizabeth II took on that day - when she was aged just 25!
A Brief History
Elizabeth was not born to be Queen. Although the grandaughter of a King - her grandparents were King George V and Queen Mary - and raised as a member of the British Royal Family, her father Prince Albert Duke of York was second-in-line to the throne, so Elizabeth and younger sister Margaret were not born as certain front runners for the eventual job of monarch.
However, circumstances beyond the control of the child Elizabeth would alter her destiny. When she was just 10, her life would change forever. Her Uncle David had succeeded to the throne in January 1936 after the death of his father George V and, because there's always a decent time allowed between the death of one monarch and the crowning of the successor, David - King Edward VIII - was to be crowned in May of the following year. However, in December 1936 he decided to abdicate the throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, a twice divorced American with whom he had fallen in love. His brother would take his place.
From the moment her father ascended the British throne (he took the 'regnal' name George VI), the young Princess Elizabeth would have been groomed for a life as monarch. As a 'Royal' she would have already been aware of the concept of 'duty' but now her father was king, Princess Elizabeth would be prepared in earnest for her eventual life of service.
Westminster Abbey is also the Church of England Cathedral where Prince William, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, married Catherine Middleton on April 29, 2011.
William - Duke of Cambridge - is second in line to the throne after his own father, the Queen's eldest son, Charles Prince of Wales
By the time her father passed away when she was 24 - George VI sadly died of lung cancer on 6 Feburary 1952 - Elizabeth had married her third cousin, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh - had two young children and had enjoyed something of a private life, albeit wrapped up in all the responsibilities which came with being Heir to the Throne.
Then, with the loss of her beloved father aged just 56 she was thrust, rather before she might have wished, into the role for which she had been prepared.
On June 2 1953, Elizabeth processed through the packed streets of London and the cheers of the crowds to Westminster Abbey and, amid much pomp and historical ceremony, swore the sacred oath of allegiance to her country and its laws. Much as kings and queens of England had done down many centuries, during this solemn Coronation Ceremony, this beautiful, sincere and dutiful young woman took on responsibilities which you and I can only imagine. Apart from being monarch of the United Kingdom and all those other aforementioned countries and dominions, Elizabeth II also became Head of the Commonwealth, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The Queen's Role Today
Queen Elizabeth II does not 'rule' Great Britain, nor any of the still remaining British dominions or those countries still with Commonwealth ties.
The UK is a 'Constitutional Monarchy' and it is the British Parliament, whose members sit in a building overlooking the River Thames just a short distance from where the Queen was crowned, who make the laws of the land.
But the government of the day is Queen Elizabeth's government. And while her role is mostly ceremonial, she is still Head of State.
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A Life of Duty
Down the years, through good times and bad, Queen Elizabeth has been at the heart of British life.
She has weathered the storms of public disapproval and bathed in the love of her people. She has held her head high during family grief and trial, has rejoiced with her people, and mourned alongside us.
She has been the best example of a 'working mum' before that creature became popularised. Although undoubtedly she had a great deal of help at home, she has raised 4 children and worked tirelessly, giving of herself absolutely every day.
Even now, aged 87, she still remains dedicated to her life of devotion and duty and keeps going, undertaking public duties and always looking immaculate, when many elderly women would be happy to sit at home in their slippers drinking tea and quietly nodding off in the corner of the room.
'Home' for the Queen and her family is a variety of rather grand houses and palaces across the country but the London 'town house' is the magnificent Buckingham Palace.
It was to this royal residence that she returned after her Coronation that day 60 years ago, and from where she stood on the balcony looking down onto the hundreds of thousands of people in the Mall, the ceremonial route to the palace which stretches half a mile to Admiralty Arch at its furthest end, it's red surface giving the impression of a very long red carpet.
She had been on this balcony before. Just a few years earlier, on VE Day 1945, she had stood with her parents and sister, and the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, undoubtedly as happy and relieved as the cheering crowds below that the war in Europe was finally over.
Many times since that same balcony has been her platform as she has celebrated landmarks in her long reign and other state and family occasions, like Royal Weddings. But on that June 2 1953, as she looked down from the balcony did the new Queen Elizabeth also give a thought to the woman who is memorialised in the statue and fountains which sit at the entrance to her palace?
The Victoria Memorial stands in recognition of the longest reigning British monarch - so far. Queen Victoria reigned for nearly 64 years - from 20 June 1837 to 22 January 1901.
Now her great great granddaughter Elizabeth is not far off that record!
The Royal Life
During the summer months you can visit Buckingham Palace - tours are available where you may enjoy the splendour of the place and maybe pretend, for just a little moment, what it might be like to live in the lap of Royal luxury.
It's a real privilege to be able to walk the corridors which the Queen and her family use - although there's no access to the 'private apartments' you do get to experience a selection of the ceremonial rooms and areas.
And then there are the magnificent gardens at the rear which are so peaceful even though you are in the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world.
A Time for Celebration
But although Queen Elizabeth undoubtedly enjoys a life of immense luxury and privilege, the 60th anniversary of her Coronation reminds us all that this has, perhaps, come at a price.
As she received the crown and other paraphernalia of sacred service in that ceremony more than half a century ago, she would have understood that this was the start of a sacrificial life of service and duty where her own wishes and desires would need to be suppressed. From that moment it was no longer about her - Elizabeth the private individual, the woman, the wife, the mother - but about the greater good, her people, and her nation.
And that, whether one is in favour of the Monarchy or a Republican, surely is something to be admired and celebrated.
All images featured here were taken by the author, Cathy Le Feuvre
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