Queen of the Screen

At the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 a television set was a small screen, maybe only 12 or 14”, in a big box and the picture was in black and white. Nonetheless on coronation day sitting in front of one was the place to be.

In March 1952 there were only 1.45 million license holders in the UK but by the end of May 1953 there were 2.32 million. 27 million people in Britain watched the coronation live, only 7.8 million of them in their home. If yours was the only house on the street with a TV, then you invited neighbours to come along to watch, crowding round the little screen so that another 10.4 million watched in other people’s homes. And 1.5 million watched in cinemas and public halls where screen had been installed for the purpose.

But it may not have happened. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and his cabinet were concerned that the intrusion of television cameras might impair the dignity and sanctity of the ceremony and, of course, there was the consideration of setting a dangerous precedent. But MPs lobbied on behalf of their constituents to claim the right for all citizens to enjoy what those privileged to be in the Abbey could.