It is extraordinary to think that for most people in this country the queen is just there, she has been queen all their life. The other thing is that most of you will be thinking, gosh, 6o years ago, that is history, how incredible to be that old.
It is, but for once I’d say, and what a privilege to be that old, to be able to remember the day of the Coronation, the excitement and pride, and concern, too, for this young woman who was taking on so seriously the commitment that life (her accident of birth) had imposed upon her.
And my memories, and emotions, were those of an even younger girl, a 12 year old at boarding school in Central Africa. No telly in the whole of Southern Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe then was) let alone for the Peter’s Diocesan School for Girls in Bulawayo to watch. I suppose we must have listened to the coronation service on the wireless and later saw it all on news reels at the cinema in the holidays, probably several times. It all seems very familiar.
The excitement and sense of joy and patriotism in our school was intense. Our nuns were quick to point out the significance of having a woman on the throne, although at that stage it had never occurred to me that girls/women were assumed to be secondary, and inferior, to men simply because they didn’t wear trousers. At a girls only school, one accepted that girls did all have responsibility for themselves and others – and respect if it were due to them- as individuals rather than because of their gender.
A new Elizabethan Age? A young and beautiful woman, a mother of two tinies, taking on such responsibility, and for life? The pomp, the ceremony, the promise, after the ravages and death of the Second World War, the joy… We felt it all, all those thousands of miles away.
Our nuns, not known for their frivolity or generosity, let alone any hint of self-indulgence, set the seal on the significance of the day. We were each given at lunch a bottle of Coco Cola. We knew then that June 2nd 1953 was uniquely special.
And, 60 years later, I feel privileged to be able to share those memories with you, and celebrate! Perhaps this time with more than a Coke!