God save the Queen! Those were the shouts heard from inside Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II took the Coronation Oath and officially became the ruling monarch of the U.K and the Commonwealth.
Although Elizabeth ascended the throne as a young 25-year-old princess on February 6, 1952, immediately on hearing of the death of her father, King George VI, it wasn’t until 16 months later on June 2, 1953, that she was crowned, such was the extent of the planning needed. Her first years as Queen are featured in the first season of Netflix’s hit series, The Crown.
Read on for five surprising facts on the 64th anniversary of the Queen’s historic day:
1. It Was the First Televised Coronation
Tech-savvy even back then, Princess Elizabeth was determined to have the ceremony broadcast (much against the disapproval of Sir Winston Churchill). It would be the first coronation to be televised (except for the anointing and the communion) and was broadcast in 44 languages. An estimated 20 million people gathered round their television screens (or those of their neighbors) to catch a glimpse of the pomp and ceremony of the momentous occasion. After the event, sales of televisions rocketed.
2. Her Gown Had a Hidden Good-Luck Charm
Trusted royal couturier Sir Norman Hartnell worked closely with Elizabeth to create a gown in the finest white duchess satin, richly embroidered with national and Commonwealth floral emblems in gold and silver thread. Encrusted with seed pearls, sequins and crystals, the designer added a secret detail for extra luck. Unknown to the Queen, Hartnell included an extra four-leaf shamrock on the left side of the skirt, which was positioned perfectly so that Her Majesty’s hand would rest on it during the ceremony.
3. Top-Secret Staff Were Recruited
There was a shortage of professional coachmen to help transport dignitaries to Westminster Abbey in horse drawn carriages, so millionaire businessmen and country squires offered their services – many dressing up as servants to help take people to the ceremony.
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4. Footage Was Flown Across the Atlantic in Military Jets
To make the broadcast available the same day, Royal Air Force bomber jets known as Canberras flew film footage across the Atlantic so that the Canadian Broadcast Company could air it. It was the first non-stop transatlantic flight between the United Kingdom and Canada, and landed in Labrador.
5. The Romance!
Prince Philip was the first person to pay homage to the Queen after the Archbishop of Canterbury. After being lifted on her throne, her husband said, “I Philip, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God.” He then kissed her crown and her left cheek.