Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation

The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June, 1953 was a vibrant community event in Marlborough. The College hosted many of the local activities on the day including a Children’s Afternoon Tea in Court, the staging of the centrepiece Pageant ‘Marlborough through the Ages’ and a Modern Dance Band in the College Gymnasium.

A piece published in the Marlborough Times on 5th June provides an insight into the day:

As the Mayor of Marlborough (Mr E.J. Free) hoisted the Union Jack into a strong, chilly breeze above the Town Hall on Tuesday morning, Marlborough’s Coronation festivities were heralded by a merry peal from St Mary’s Church bells…. The High-street has always appealed to both resident and visitor, but on Tuesday it was particularly attractive with its special decorations….. and painted standards erected on each side of the street, with their shields and representations of the crafts and trades of the town.

Of the Pageant, the report said:

Despite showery weather that got steadily colder, some 3,000 people assembled to watch the pageant unfold before a lovely setting on the terrace at Marlborough College.  Constructions, built to represent the old Castle and St. Peter’s Church, looked extremely realistic….. Spectacular incident occupied scene III which dealt with the granting of the first charter by King John.  Here reference was made to the annual fair and the Wednesday and Saturday markets . . …   The conversion of the Castle to an inn and the subsequent foundation of Marlborough College were dealt with in the next three episodes.  An idea of the social life enjoyed by the 18th century aristocracy was offered in the first section in which Lady Hertford enjoyed the pleasures of her garden while lending a delicate ear to the poetry of James Thompson and Stephen Duck.  But the house of the Seymours was soon to be no more and the entry of an innkeeper welcoming such eminent gentlemen as Beau Nash and members of the Castle Club, marked its fall.  Later came the college founders speculating as to the suitability of the site for their new school.  A day in the life of the school depicted the humble beginnings of ball games and the appointment of a prefect……   The final tableau, which spanned four reigns, was followed by the reading of the ascension proclamation by the Mayor (Councillor E.J. Free), in the presence of aldermen, councillors and other borough officials.

Whilst all this was going on in Marlborough, on the other side of the world, Lord Hunt (C2 1924-28) was leading the first expedition to successfully summit Mount Everest. On the 29th of May, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first two men to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world as part of this British expedition party. Once the two had returned to camp, the group descended the mountain rapidly as they realised that if they got down that day, they could get the news back to England in time for the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In Westminster Abbey, another eminent Old Marlburian, Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, was leading the Coronation Service and crowned Elizabeth as Queen. He arrived at Marlborough in 1901 and was a boy in C2.  He left in 1906 but returned to teach at Marlborough for three years (1911-14) before becoming Head of Repton and Bishop of Chester. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945-61.

Please click below to read the official Programme of the Marlborough Coronation Celebrations.