Friday, June 01, 2007

The Churchill Series – June 1, 2007

( One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

This post is about Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in June 1953. But not our Winston Churchill.

The Winston Churchill in this post is the great man’s grandson who, in his autobiographical Memories and Adventures, tells us a bit about what happened when he was invited to serve as a page at the Coronation. He was 12 at the time and attending Eton:

As may be imagined I was thrilled at the prospect of being a page at the Coronation, not least for the fact that it would mean getting away from school on at least three occasions, including twice for rehearsals. …

For the first rehearsal in May all those with specific parts to play in this splendid and ancient ceremony, excepting only the sovereign, were assembled in Westminster Abbey. We were directed to our places, under the eagle eye of the Duke of Norfolk, the hereditary Earl Marshal of England, and told precisely what was required of us at each point in the ceremony, from the highest functionaries of Church and State down to the smallest pageboy….

Though short of stature and ruddy of face and, viewed from across the great expanse of the Abbey, looking like nothing so much as Mr. McGoo, the Duke of Norfolk, trailing a long microphone lead behind him, instantly asserted his authority over the proceedings by the brusqueness of his commends but, above all, by his precise knowledge of every detail of the ceremony. …

There was a splendid moment when the Earl Marshal commanded the Archbishop of Canterbury: “Archbishop! Pray bring the crown!” The Archbishop shuffled off into a corner and reappeared a few moments later bearing a crown in his hands.

The Earl Marshal took one look at it from a distance and instantly proffered the stinging rebuke: “Archbishop! That is the wrong crown! Pray bring St. Edward’s Crown!”

It had an electric effect on the assembled company and thereafter, each one of us, from the Chiefs of Staff downwards, determined not to give the Earl Marshal any ground for offering us so stinging a public rebuke.

For the dress rehearsal just a few days before the great occasion, my mother supervised my turnout in minute detail, arranging for my hair to be cut and giving the barber precise instructions as to how it was to be done. No sooner had we arrived at the Abbey than I was accosted by Field Marshall Montgomery who could never readily restrain his instinct to be a busybody: “Boy! Tell your mother to get your hair cut before the day!”
I hope you’re smiling. Have a nice weekend.
Winston S. Churchill, Memories and Adventures. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) (pgs. 75-76)