London Coronation Days: 1953 and 2023

London Coronation Days: 1953 and 2023

The weather was lousy for King Charles III’s mother too, even though Coronation day in 1953 was held a month later, in June. Something else that wasn’t different was the overnight gathering of crowds, undeterred by the rain, to line the Mall and almost the same route as taken by Elizabeth II to Westminster Abbey.

Other than that? Well, the capital was still crawling from the wreckage of World War II. There were bomb sites everywhere, some of them used as playgrounds and gardens. A party had taken place in one in the East End.

It took until February 1953 for war time sweet rationing to stop, though sugar for other purposes, along with meat and other foods, continued to be restricted until the following July. To celebrate its new sweet freedom, a manufacturer in Clapham Common gave away lollipops to 800 children.

The Coronation was also preceded by one of the most famous F.A. Cup finals ever, in which Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3 at Wembley, but London hosted dark deeds as well as heroic ones in 1953 before Elizabeth’s big day.

In January, 19-year-old Derek Bentley was controversially hanged at Wandsworth prison for being party to a murder he didn’t commit (he was posthumously pardoned in 1993). And in March, victims of serial killer John Christie were discovered at 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill.

All that was part of the context for Elizabeth’s crowning day. Her eldest son was four at the time. Today, his crowning was the focal point a capital much changed and yet going through another kind of recovery from a period of peril and loss.

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