LONDON, Jun 4 – Queen Elizabeth II marked the 60th anniversary of her coronation on Tuesday with a service at Westminster Abbey filled with references to the rainy day in 1953 when she was crowned.
More than 2,000 guests crammed into the abbey for the service, attended by all the senior members of the royal family including Prince William and his heavily pregnant wife Catherine.
The bells of the abbey pealed as the queen’s Bentley drew up and she stepped out into the bright sunshine to enter the church where as a 27-year-old she became queen of Britain and head of the Commonwealth.
The 86-year-old monarch, in an oyster-coloured outfit by Angela Kelly, was accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, 91, who was at her side despite pulling out of a public engagement on Monday because of ill health.
The solid gold St Edward’s Crown, glittering with jewels, was displayed on the high altar of the abbey — the first time it has left the Tower of London since the coronation.
Also placed on the altar was the Ampulla, the gold, eagle-shaped flask containing the holy oil with which the queen was anointed at the coronation.
Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who was just four when his mother was crowned, sat next to his parents on the front row, alongside his second wife Camilla.
Next to them sat William and Catherine, who wore a daisy lace dress and a peach silk jacket by British designer Jenny Packham.
Charles recalled last year that the queen practised wearing the crown around Buckingham Palace in the weeks before her coronation, even popping in to say hello to her children during their bath time.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave the address, while Prime Minister David Cameron and Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma gave readings.
A specially-written poem by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy was also read out.
The celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the coronation have been more low-key than the festivities held last year to mark the day the queen took the throne in 1952.
She became monarch upon the death of her father king George VI, but to allow for a period of national mourning, she was only crowned 16 months later.
Lady Glenconner, who was lady-in-waiting to the queen for the coronation, said before Tuesday’s service she would never forget the momentous day in 1953, when the summer rain did nothing to dim the splendour of the occasion.
“We could hear everybody shouting louder and louder and suddenly around the corner came this amazing golden coach, it was like a fairytale,” she told BBC television.
“We helped the queen out and the train (of her dress) was very heavy. And then we went with her just inside the door where we stood and we all waited. And she suddenly turned around and she said ‘Ready girls?’. And off we went very, very slowly.”
It was the first time a coronation had been televised and more than 20 million in Britain watched the events live while another 11 million listened to radio coverage.
Royal thoughts are now turning to the birth expected in July of William and Catherine’s first child who — following a change in the rules of succession — will be third in line to the throne regardless of gender.
The coronation celebrations also include exhibitions of memorabilia, gun salutes and a series of garden parties.
Royal biographer William Shawcross said that by living out her coronation oaths of duty and service, the queen had been a focal point during the momentous social upheaval of her reign.
“Britain was then another world. It has changed beyond recognition since 1953. Only the queen has remained our constant,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“That unity around the crown has, amazingly, remained — and it is centred on the young woman who has grown older with us.”