Inside the Abbey, the mood was then much more tense, with a great expectation of what would happen in the few hours to come. The High Altar had some of the Crown Jewels already lying above it, and in the so-called Theatre of the coronation ceremony, everyone was prepared. The Royal Family had taken its place in the Gallery above the Queen’s Chair of Estate, the Clergy was seating on the opposite side. The shining of the tiaras and the decorations made the scene seem part of a very unique movie, almost impossible to imagine. The Orchestra and the Choirs had been singing throughout the arrival of guests and were now in silence as the long procession was prepared in the Annex.
As the Queen entered the West Door of the Abbey, and while the beginning of the cortege, opened by the Archiepiscopal Cross of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was already past the Quire, a fanfare was played by the trumpeters. Members of the College of Arms followed the Archbishop and then two lines of the Gentleman of Arms surrounded the rest of the cortege. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Admiral of the Fleet, wearing his cope of Peer of the Kingdom and his Garter over it, opened the rest of the cortege and was followed by the great officers of the Kingdom, carrying the regalia. Meanwhile, the Choir was singing the anthem “I was glad”. Several Peers brought the two Sceptres and the three Swords of Justice and were followed by the Black Rod, the Garter King of Arms and the Lord Mayor of London. Behind them, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the High Constables of Scotland, the Lord High Steward of Ireland and then the High Constable of England and the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, who was the highest responsible for organizing the Coronation ceremony.
Following them, the Lord High Steward, carrying a cushion with St. Edward’s Crown and surrounded by two other Peers, one bringing the Orb and the other the Rod with the Dove. And then three bishops, bringing the Bible, the Paten and the Chalice, preceded the Queen and her attendance, who entered the Quire as the music rose. The trumpets sounded and the choir cried “Vivat Regina! Vivat Regina Elizabetha! Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!” and, wearing King George’s Diadem of State and Queen Victoria’s Parliamentary Crimson Robe – carried by her maids of honour – and surrounded by the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Bishop of Durham, the Queen slowly moved through the choir, up the steps to the Theatre and around the Throne and St. Edward’s Chair to her Chair of Estate, in front of which she kneeled for some moments before getting seated, as the choir continued singing.
The Regalia was then delivered by the Peers who had brought it in cortege to His Eminence the Archbishop of Canterbury, who then delivered the jewels to the Dean of Westminster for them to be placed upon the Altar. The Archbishop then came down to the Theatre for the ceremony of Recognition and, together with the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord High Constable, and the Earl Marshal, preceded by the Garter King of Arms, went to all the four sides of the theatre and presented the Queen to the People. The Queen moved around from her Chair and around St. Edward’s Chair, turning to each of the sides to which the Archbishop was presenting her and asking them to pay their homage. From each side “God Save Queen Elizabeth” was heard and after each cry the trumpets were sounded.
Having the Queen returned to her Chair of Estate, the Archbishop, placed in front of her, asked Her Majesty if she was willing to take the Oath, to which the Queen answered “I am willing”. The Archbishop continued asking her the questions of the Oath and receiving Her Majesty’s answers. Then, the Queen arose from her chair and surrounded by the two bishops went to the Altar where with her hand above the Bible, she reaffirmed her oath, then signing a copy of Oath.
After a long ceremony of readings and prayers, the ceremony of the Anointing began as the Choir began singing the beautiful anthem “Zadok, the Priest”, of George Friedrich Haendel, in the middle of which the Queen arose and began preparing to be anointed with the help of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Mistress of the Robes, and the Lord Great Chamberlain. They took the Diadem, the Collar of the Garter and the Crimson Robe, as well as her diamond necklace and covered her Hartnell masterpiece with a plain white vestment, symbolising the pureness of the Queen in that most solemn and sacred moment. At the same moment, four Knights of the Garter brought the golden canopy to be placed above the Throne for the Anointing. The Queen, preceded, as always, by the Sword of State, went towards St. Edwards’s Chair and seated, having raised the two steps. The anthem had ended when the Knights of the Garter placed the canopy above the Coronation Chair and the Archbishop came down from the Altar, carrying the Ampulla with the Holy Oil and the Spoon.
The cameras were not allowed to the record this most sacred moment, as the Archbishop anointed the Queen’s hands, breast and head. The Queen then left the Coronation Chair and the Mistress of the Robes divested her of her plan white garment. The Dean of Westminster then was helped to put upon the Queen the Colobium Sindonis (a plain white vestment) and over it the magnificent Supertunica, a close pall of gold embroidered with crimson silk, and a Girdle of the same. Now looking completely different of what she had before, with the gold shining all over her, the Queen went back to St. Edward’s Chair and seated, preparing to receive the regalia, the emblems of majesty.
First the Archbishop gave Her Majesty the jewelled Sword of State and said the prayers. Rising, the Queen went towards the altar to offer the sword, giving it in the service of God, where she delivered it to the Dean. After returning to the Coronation Chair, she was invested with the Armills. She rose again to be invested with the Stole Royal and the outstanding and historic Robe Royal, which may be descended from the Imperial Robes of the Byzantine Emperors. Wearing that magnificent garment, the Queen went back and seated, prepared to receive the magnificent crown jewels. Her Majesty was first given the beautiful Orb with the Cross, which was then returned it to the Dean. The Archbishop then placed the royal ring, a sapphire and upon it a ruby cross, often called the Wedding Ring of England, on the fourth finger of the Queen’s right hand.
The Dean then brought the Sceptre with the Cross and the Rod with the Dove from the Altar. First, the Archbishop delivered the magnificent Royal Sceptre to the Queen, “the ensign of kingly power and justice”. Then he gave the Rod with the Dove, “of equity and mercy”, to the Queen’s left hand. The most expected moment had then come, the actual crowning, the climax of the ceremony, was about to take place.
The expectation was felt in the atmosphere inside the Abbey as the Peers and Peeresses, Princes and Princesses, prepared their coronets so that they could put them on their heads when the Queen was crowned. Several pages entered the Theatre to bring the coronets of the Peers who were taking part in the ceremony, while at the High Altar the Archbishop of Canterbury lifted St. Edward’s Crown and asked God to bless it and to bless the Queen, who would shortly be wearing it for the first and only time in her life.
The Queen remained seated in St. Edward’s Chair, surrounded by the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Bishop of Durham and soon the Archbishop turned and walked towards Her Majesty, followed by the Dean of Westminster, carrying St. Edward’s Crown in a cushion. The Archbishop of Canterbury then took the crown on his hands and climbed the steps to St. Edward’s Chair, lifting the crown above the Queen’s head. It was a magical moment. Everyone held breaths. In the Royal Gallery, just on the right of the Coronation Chair, HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was visibly moved by the scene, having by her side HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, who had his aunt, HRH Princess Margaret, on his other side. Slowly, magnificently, solemnly, the Archbishop placed the sublime crown in Queen Elizabeth’s head.
Everyone in the Abbey cried “God Save the Queen” several times and the trumpets sounded, as outside the guns of Her Majesty’s Tower of London announced that the Queen had been crowned. Outside, the people’s joy was immense and expressed with cries and applause. Inside the Abbey, all the Princes and Princesses, Peers and Peeresses had now placed their Coronets over their heads and everyone was staring at the Queen, who looked immensely tiny under the crown.
After having received the Benediction from the Archbishop, the solemn and symbolic ceremony of the Enthroning began as the Bishops helped the Queen to lift from St. Edward’s Chair. Wearing the crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross and the Rod with the Dove, the Queen walked unhurriedly towards her throne as all the Peers and Bishops who had been taking part in the service surrounded the dais in which the beautiful throne was placed.
The symbolism of this ceremony is based on the taking of possession of the Kingdom by the sovereign, and that is why the representatives of the Kingdom surround the throne. Looking serious and grave, the Queen climbed the five steps leading to the chair and as she turned to be seated, the Bishops, the Earl Marshal and another Peer lifted Her Majesty to her throne. After the prayer by the Archbishop came another symbolic moment, the Homage. Two of the Peers standing around the throne held the Sceptre and the Rod behind the Queen as she prepared to receive homage from her subjects. The first to pay homage was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who kneeled in front of the Queen, while the Bishops who had been supporting the Queen on each side kneeled with him and so did the other bishops present near the throne.
As the Choir sung the first of a series of anthems, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh approached to pay his homage as royal duke and leaving his coronet to the page that was standing down the steps of the dais, climbed the steps and kneeled. After he had paid his homage, he arose and after touching the crown, he kissed his wife, his Queen, on her left cheek and after placing his coronet on his head, returned to his place.
The Duke of Edinburgh was then followed in the same ritual by TRH the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent, and afterwards by the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, in representation of all the dukes. Subsequently, the most senior of the Marquesses, of the Earls, of the Viscounts and of the Barons paid their homage in name of all the Peers of their degree, who kneeled in their places. At the end of the homage and at one voice, everyone cried “God save Queen Elizabeth! Long live Queen Elizabeth! May the Queen live for ever!”
As an hymn was played by the organ and sung by the congregation, the Queen, again holding her Sceptre and her Rod, was helped to lift from the throne was walked around St. Edward’s Chair towards the High Altar, where she left the crown jewels to then kneel with the Duke of Edinburgh for the Communion. The long communion service having ended, the Queen took back her Crown, Sceptre and Rod and returned to her throne, while her husband returned to his place. Then, with everyone standing, the Choir sung the “Te Deum Laudamus” and in the meanwhile, the Queen, preceded by the great officers bearing the Swords of Justice and the Sword of State and the other Peers who carried the Regalia in the procession, walked through the Theatre and under the small door of the Altar into St. Edward’s Chapel.