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Thursday 16 August, 2001

The Memories and Hopes for QE II

as shared by her Uncle David, the Duke of Windsor

"At the request of the Woman's Home Companion I have undertaken to put down certain thoughts of mine evoked by the approaching coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, my niece." So begins the article the Duke of Windsor wrote for the June 1953 Woman's Home Companion Magazine. In it he shares his memories of the coronation of his grandfather, Edward VII and his father, George V. He also compares the professed qualities of a good monarch to the qualities of both of these men along with his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, and his brother, George VI, and what he has seen in his niece, Queen Elizabeth II, that he thinks will be the mark of her reign. 

The Duke of Windsor had a very unique perspective on the ceremony of the coronation having had the rare privilege of attending two that weren't his own. The first was the crowning of his grandfather, Edward VII, in 1902. He was eight at the time and recalled being taken by his tutor to see Westminster Abbey and the throne of Edward I that every British Monarch since (exception: Queen Mary Tudor) have sat in to be crowned. He shares the legend of The Stone of Destiny, which lies in a recess below the throne seat, taken by Edward I from the Abbey of Scone in Scotland. This stone is said to be the pillow on which Jacob laid his head the night he dreamed of the ladder ascending to heaven. It was a fairy story even for a Prince. Though the four-hour service for a boy that age was not quite as memorable. The most meaningful memory was watching his father, then Prince of Wales; kneel before his own father, Edward VII, to pay homage.

The second coronation he was privy to was that of his own father, George V. This coronation made quite a different impression for several reasons, first he was ten years older and as Prince of Wales had quite a role to play in the ceremony. He had to study his part. He learned of the steps taken to ensure it was a meaningful and historical ritual. For example, the honor of becoming a Knight of the Garter was bestowed upon him twelve days before to ensure he "be suitably attired" for the service. He remembers well the awe he felt sitting with the peers as opposed to in the Princesses box. He sat in the very chair his own father sat in while waiting to pay homage to the newly crowned king. He feared failing his father happily noting that George VI's diary entry for the day included this statement, "Dear David…did it so well."

With respect to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II he mentioned all the hullabaloo surrounding the debate as to whether or not the ceremony should be televised and the problems of what equipment could be brought into the Abbey and where it should be placed. He mentioned that even such discussion wouldn't take away from the heart of the ceremony where the new monarch swears before God the coronation oath. When she swore to "Govern the people of this United Kingdom of Great Britain, et al, by 'causing law and justice, in mercy to be executed", to be Defender of the Faith, and to dedicate her life to the service of her people, the moment would belong to her.

He compared the styles of this century's monarchs:
Queen Victoria: As the longest reigning monarch, her reign defined an age by establishing a moral code of conduct. "Victoria in her turn lifted from the crown the moral stigma of what she used to call "my wicked uncles". *" "Her blood relationship with many of the reigning houses of Europe imparted to her views of foreign affairs a personal insight and understanding that few dared challenge. *" She let the pomp and ceremony of the monarchy fall to the wayside after she was widowed.

King Edward VII: His reign lasted only nine years and he "…enjoyed the society of witty men and beautiful women, who relished foreign travel and the savor of high diplomacy, restored to the monarchy the magnificence, the color and the variety that had disappeared during his mother's reign. *" 

King George V: "By constrast, George V's reign reverted in tone to that of Victoria's, becoming almost an echo of that era. *" 

King Edward VII: "Had mine run its full course it is possible that its mood and texture would have followed more that of Edward VII. *"

King George VI: "That of my brother Bertie who followed mine as George VI was almost a faithful reflection of my father's. *"

Queen Elizabeth II: "It is, of course, too early to predict…*" "She has already shown that essential instinct…of making herself felt and of striking the imagination of her people. *"

His perceptions are quite good. He goes on to describes Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas Broadcast and further speculates that as Elizabeth I before her had inspired discovery and exploration, which helped define the Elizabethan Age, it appears as though this young Queen would do the same. This proved true as the papers reported Queen Elizabeth II taking time out on her coronation day to send her personal congratulations to the British expedition that reached the top of Mount Everest - a first. 

All in all it was a very enjoyable article for it's unique 'insider' point of view on the coronation history and ceremony from a personality perspective rather than a historical perspective written by a man who, knowing all the players, was in the unique position of being able to do so. Hope you'll have a chance to read it sometime as well. I thought they would make an interesting reflection as this month's Golden Jubilee tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II.

* All quotes taken from the article, "The Duke of Windsor Reflect Upon The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II" printed in the 'Woman's Home Companion' June 1953.

Hope you are having a great week! I feel as if I've been transported into box heaven or is it box hell? Moving is an art I doubt I'll ever master. :-) Looking forward to hearing from you.

All the best,

-- Eileen Sullivan --

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This page and its contents are 2004 Copyright by Geraldine Voost and may not be reproduced without the authors permission. The Muse of the Monarchy column is 2004 Copyright by Eileen Sullivan who has kindly given permission for it to be displayed on this website.
This page was last updated on: Tuesday, 31-Aug-2004 16:33:04 CEST