Menzies RG: Our Coronation Tour - Coronation and procession
This clip from a home movie, filmed by Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, shows Queen Elizabeth II arriving at Westminster Abbey in a horse-drawn carriage. She alights from the carriage surrounded by her Maids of Honour and enters the Abbey. The Groom of the Robes delivers the Robe Royal of Pall cloth of gold with the Stole Royal to the Dean of Westminster, who, assisted by the Mistress of the Robes, puts it upon the Queen. The Lord Great Chamberlain fastens the clips.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gives the Sceptre and then the Rod with the Dove to the Queen. The Archbishop then lowers a crown onto her head then kisses her right hand. The Duke of Edinburgh then ascends the steps of the Throne, and having taken off his coronet, kneels down and places his hands between the Queen’s and says the words of Homage. Then her Majesty leaves the Chapel wearing her Crown and bearing the Sceptre and the Orb. Summary by Elizabeth Taggart- Speers.
In an interview for The Canberra Files, Menzies’ daughter Heather Henderson revealed that although Menzies shot most of his home movies, much of the Coronation Service was filmed by his secretary while he was outside the Abbey.
Menzies RG: Our Coronation Tour synopsis
This home movie filmed by the Australian Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Robert G Menzies, records the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the official ceremonies and parades associated with the event.
Menzies RG: Our Coronation Tour curator's notes
Shot on 16mm colour film, this home movie filmed by Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, on 2 June 1953 is a significant historical record that captures the official ceremonies for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It begins with an official welcome. Sir Robert captures prominent leaders including the Queen of Tonga and The Prime Minister of Canada.
Heather Henderson, the daughter of Sir Robert Menzies, revealed in an interview for The Canberra Files, that although Menzies shot most of his home movies, much of the Coronation Service was filmed by his secretary while he was outside the Abbey.
Notes by Elizabeth Taggart-Speers
This silent clip, from one of prime minister Robert Menzies’s home movies, shows scenes leading up to and during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony on 2 June 1953. An intertitle introduces footage of the coach leaving Buckingham Palace. Princess Elizabeth enters Westminster Abbey followed by her ladies in waiting and proceeds down the aisle. Some aspects of the ritual are shown, filmed from above, including the Princess receiving the orb and being crowned. Prince Philip makes his obeisance and the Queen walks down the aisle at the end of the ceremony.
Educational value points
- The clip provides a detailed colour film record of what was in 1953 the biggest public and media event in British history. The BBC provided live coverage on radio and black-and-white television, with more than 20 million people watching the broadcast. An estimated 3 million people lined London’s streets to see the Queen in the state coach on her way to Westminster Abbey, where 8,251 guests attended.
- A significant aspect of this clip is that it was made by a serving Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies (1894–1978), who filmed many of his experiences as prime minister after 1941 when he was given a 35-mm movie camera as a gift. He used expensive Kodachrome colour film, which was rarely used for home movies at the time. In contrast to the clip, the television images that the public associates with the coronation ceremony are in black and white.
- The rituals shown here are among the most important of the British coronation investiture, a ceremony dating back more than 900 years. The ceremony marks the investment of the monarch with regal power. The Princess is dressed in a robe of gold and presented with symbols of office including the orb – a Christian symbol of authority, the sceptre – a symbol of monarchical authority, and the rod of equity and mercy. Finally, the crown is placed on her head.
- Menzies’s home movie of the coronation reveals that the camera was allowed a privileged position and the variety of vantage points suggests that it was shot by more than one person. The clip includes footage shot from a high position towards the front and at the rear of the Abbey. Other shots taken above the heads of the guests, very close to the Queen and alongside the altar, also suggest the privileged vantage point of the filmmaker.
- Like all others, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband, was required to pay homage to his monarch and is shown removing his coronet and kneeling down before her. He then pronounces the words of homage, touches her crown and kisses her cheek. All the other dukes and members of the nobility were also required to pay homage, formally indicating their submission and loyalty to their sovereign.
- Robert Menzies was invited to the coronation ceremony as one of the Commonwealth prime ministers but he also had a deep personal regard for the Queen. He first met her before the Second World War when she was a young princess. Their relationship was to be cemented in 1954 during her tour of Australia. During her 1963 visit to Australia she conferred a personal knighthood upon him.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia