14 January 2018

Highlights from The Coronation

It took the filmmakers 22 years to get the palace to agree to a sit down with The Queen to discuss, on camera, her recollections of her coronation. The result is the BBC's new documentary, The Coronation - airing on the BBC and the Smithsonian Channel (so far) - and it was pretty delightful.

All parties are careful to characterize Alastair Bruce's time with The Queen as a "conversation" and not an interview; he was not supposed to pose direct questions to the monarch. Still, the dry wit of her responses and the casual ease with which she handled her crowns were the most entertaining parts of the hour. A few highlights:

A smiling explanation that "your neck would break" if the crown slipped off, accompanied by her general (and slightly cheeky) ease in manhandling the Imperial State Crown:

She poked at Elizabeth I's dangling pearls on the crown and declared them "quite sad" looking; "Pearls," she noted, "are sort of living things. They need warming up and these have just been hanging here." She prefers the view including the Black Prince's Ruby and declared the Stuart Sapphire to be unfortunately pale but rather useful, given that it helps tell which side is the front and which is the back. A retelling of the story of the cutting of the Cullinan Diamond earned a casual gesture towards the "chips" - the Cullinan III and IV Brooch - on her shoulder. The Queen speculated that they might not have been reunited since they were cut. (That's an interesting question to ponder, how often the major Cullinan pieces have been in the same room; Queen Mary's Crown used at the 1911 coronation included both Cullinans III and IV.) Incidentally, we have Alastair Bruce to thank for that brooch selection; it was his request, as was the blue dress to contrast with the red of the room. He details that in this audio interview. (H/t to OrangeChia!)

Meanwhile, St. Edward's Crown was tested to see if it was just as heavy as she remembered (it was), and was entertainingly poked and prodded just after it was noted that Her Maj is one of only three people allowed to touch it.

Viewing footage of her coronation at Buckingham Palace, The Queen delivered an entertaining round of one-liners. A succinct assessment of the experience of riding in the Gold State Coach: "Horrible." A reaction to learning that the Crown Jewels were hidden under Windsor Castle during World War II, some key stones pried out and hidden in a biscuit tin: "Did he remember where he put them? Because he might have died in the middle." A recollection of what the children were doing on coronation day: "No idea, I wasn't there."

An enjoyable - and rare! - hour, all in all. Did you have a chance to watch The Coronation?

It is available to view on the BBC's iPlayer, for those with access. The Smithsonian Channel aired it in the U.S. In Australia, ABC will air it on February 4th. I'm sure other methods of watching will pop up as well.