Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Quite some months ago, I wrote about my wife Ellen's second cousin who in 1952 became the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, Canada (see A Ghost of a Chance from August 2009). Louis Orville Breithaupt was a prominent leader in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, serving first as an alderman, then as the youngest mayor of the city, and eventually as a Member of Parliament for about a dozen years. Louis' wife, Sara Caskey was herself prominent in the roles that she took on in life and one of the most interesting documents I have is a 31-page 'autobiography', entitled "Bits and Pieces of My Life," that she wrote in December of 1977 at the age of 83.

Not only did Sara want to capture her family's history but she clearly wanted to share the memorable moments from her life. One of these 'moments' was attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 that Louis and Sara were invited to as a result of Louis' viceregal status as the monarch's representative in Ontario.

Louis and Sara sailed to England for the coronation aboard the 'Queen Mary' along with Canadian Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent and his wife and Ontario Premier, Leslie Frost and his wife. On Coronation Day, June 2, 1953, they were required to be at Westminster Abbey by 8 a.m. Their invitation to the coronation included their Abbey seat numbers. Sara recounted that due to Louis' status their seats were in a good spot to take in the historic event.

"By ten the special guests and Royalty began arriving.

When the Queen came in looking so young and so beautiful, my eyes filled with tears.

At the Abbey door the Archbishops of York and Canterbury took charge.

Unfortunately we could not see the actual crowning. King Edward's chair was just out of our line of vision but as the crown was placed on her head, all the Peeresses raised their coronets and simultaneously put them on their own heads. They sat just across from us, it was quite a sight.

The Queen then walked very slowly to the Throne in her gold robes, carrying the scepter and wearing her heavy crown. She was helped by the Archbishops.

First, the Archbishop of Canterbury, representing the church throughout the commonwealth did homage. Then her uncles, then Prince Philip knelt before her promising to be her loyal liege man but instead of kissing her hand he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.I doubt if there was a dry eye in the abbey.

After the Royal party had left we waited as we had been told to do until directed by the gentleman with the gold stick. Finally we were told we could go. We welcomed the word joyfully." They left the Abbey just after 3:00 p.m. looking for food for they had eaten nothing but a chocolate bar and had spent more than seven hours in the Abbey.

In my next blog entry, I'll share the memories of Sara attending dinner at Buckingham Palace.

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