Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, a.k.a. Queen Elizabeth II, finally got the chance to talk about the day she was sworn in as Queen in the documentary, The Coronation. In what has been called a ‘conversation’ rather than an interview (the Queen does not sit for formal interviews), the current monarch discusses her own coronation 65 years ago with royal family reporter Alastair Bruce, giving us a sweet insight into the woman behind the title. Plus, we found out some pretty interesting and strange facts about all the ornaments involved in such a ceremony, and the day itself, which she called “horrible.”
The Imperial State Crown, as it’s officially known, had to be reduced in size and height after last being worn previously by her father George VI at his own coronation in 1937, to make it more feminine and more manageable to wear — turns out it was so heavy, she worried it might break her neck. “You can’t look down to read the speech; you have to take the speech up, because if you did, your neck would break; it would fall off,” she said. Talk about a heavy burden, as if ruling a country weren’t enough. She said she practiced wearing the heavy crown before the ceremony during her normal activities around the Palace… y’know, just to get comfy with it.
She’s since worn the crown at the state opening of Parliament most years, but on that first day, it was “very unwieldy.” She’s probably used to it by now, and said that, “Once you put it on it stays. I mean, it just remains on.” Adding wryly, “So there are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they’re quite important things.” That’s one way to put it, Lizzie.
And that’s not to mention the priceless crown jewels. The crown is set with literally thousands of them: 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and hundreds of pearls, to be precise. It also contained the infamous Black Prince’s Ruby, which was supposedly worn by Henry V in the 15th century, and is said to be the Queen’s personal fave. The Crown jewels have an almost ancient history, and in their current form, have been used by English monarchs since around 1660. Gulp.
We also found out a little about her stately robes. Designed by the same designer as her wedding gown, the gown and robes were so burdensome on the day that they got stuck in thick carpet, and the Queen to be said she had trouble moving. Along with the designer, the Queen helped choose an array of symbols from across the Commonwealth to adorn her regal robes, so in the end it featured South African lotus flowers, Pakistani wheat sheaves, Canadian maple leaves, and of course, symbols from across the UK itself in the form of the English Rose, Welsh leeks, Irish shamrocks, and Scottish thistles. To boot, the gown features diamonds, pearls, and amethysts. And it took six embroiderers 3,000 hours in total to make. We’re not sure why we’re surprised – she is the Queen of England, after all – but it’s really the definition of decadence.
It’s not the first time the Queen has appeared in a documentary; the last time she was on our screens at length was in 1992’s Elizabeth R.
Commenting on the ceremony and ritual of it all, the Queen herself acknowledged, “It is sort of a pageant of chivalry and old-fashioned way of doing things, really. I’ve seen one coronation and been the recipient in the other, which is pretty remarkable.” Given how rare such stately occasions are, it is pretty remarkable, indeed.