Queen at Westminster Abbey to mark her coronation

Monarch will revisit the place where, as a 27-year-old mother, she was crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury

Sixty years and two days after she was crowned, to "loud and repeated acclamations", the ruler of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, the Queen will return to Westminster Abbey on Tuesday for a service of thanksgiving for her reign.

Accompanied by Prince Philip, her children and grandchildren, the Queen will revisit the place where, as a 27-year-old mother, she was crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury. Her father King George VI had died 16 months earlier.

That ceremony was a spectacularly lavish event, in front of a huge crowd – Westminster Abbey had been closed for five months to build seating for 8,251 people. Three million people stood in heavy rain to line the streets, with an estimated 27 million crowding around small black and white TV sets.

Tuesday's service in front of 2,000 invitees will be considerably more low key, featuring readings from David Cameron, Kamalesh Sharma, the secretary general of the Commonwealth, and Claire Skinner, an actor best known for playing the mum in the BBC comedy Outnumbered.

Skinner will read a new poem by Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate, which opens: "The crown translates a woman to a Queen." "Time gifted/ the crown is old light, journeying from skulls of kings to living Queen", and concludes that the crown is "not lightly worn".

Though the Queen will not wear St Edward's crown, the heavy gold crown first used for Charles II's coronation, at Tuesday's service, it will be brought from its home at the Tower of London to rest on the abbey's high altar, along with the Ampulla, the hollow gold eagle from which oil was poured to anoint her in 1953.

In a foreword to the order of service, the Dean of Westminster the Very Rev Dr John Hall, writes that the intention of the ceremony "is to evoke and reflect the shape of the coronation service itself". He describes the presence of St Edward's crown in the abbey as "a powerful symbol of the moment of coronation".

Among those attending the event will be Alex Falk, who as a 16-year-old in 1953 acted as a photographer's runner for Reuters, dashing from the abbey to Fleet Street after the service to deliver slides to be processed. He described the day as "awe-inspiring", recalling how he was stationed with photographers on scaffolding high above the entrance as the young monarch arrived.

Westminster Abbey has witnessed 38 coronations since William the Conqueror was crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066.


Esther Addley

The GuardianTramp

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