June 2, 2021

CORONATION DAY 1953

On this date 68 years ago, the young Queen Elizabeth II was officially crowned as monarch in Westminster Abbey.  This is the opening page of a scrapbook I made to commemorate the historic event.  Today I looked through the photographs and newspaper clippings I saved that year and saw two small stories that I mostly overlooked at the time.

There were throngs of people in the streets of London celebrating the coronation—despite the chilly torrential rainfall! As the royal coaches and carriages drove through London, one especially delighted the crowds. In total disregard of the downpour, a tall (over six feet) large (weighing over 300 pounds) woman insisted her carriage remain open—and she smiled and waved delightedly at the crowds. She received the loudest cheers of the day—even more than the new Queen!  She was Queen Salote of Tonga. The clipping above was from December,1953, when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited her in Tonga. At the time, this South Pacific queen was the only other woman monarch in the British Commonwealth.  Queen Elizabeth always remembered her bringing such joy to her rainy coronation day.

This clipping in my scrapbook shows the Duke of Edinburgh and Crown Prince Olav of Norway assisting Norway’s Crown Princess Martha disembark at Westminster Pier.  The Norwegian royals had come for the coronation.  This photo is now much more interesting to me since I recently watched the television miniseries Atlantic Crossing.  Based on the wartime experiences of Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha, it took some research to separate truth from fiction.  Much was made of President Roosevelt’s fondness for the Crown Princess when she and her three children fled for safety to America during much of the war. As the war ended, they were reunited with the Crown Prince in Norway.  

Less than one year after this photograph was taken, Crown Princess Martha died of cancer at the age of 53.  Three years later her husband became King Olav V of Norway.  He never remarried, was a very beloved monarch until his death in 1991 at the age of 87.  King Olav V’s mother was a daughter of England’s King Edward VII (eldest son of Queen Victoria), which means he was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. His only son succeeded him and currently is King Harald V of Norway. I’m sad that Crown Princess Martha never got to be Queen of Norway. She would have loved that!  

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