THE CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH
The Mall & Much More in London Town
My Photo Album Dateline: June 2, 1953
Coronation Day, weather-wise, was a stinker!
It rained a lot during the day, but the sun shone on Queen Salote of Tonga, wearing colorful robes, and on the golden coach bearing Queen Elizabeth.
As James Lees-Milne, the historian, novelist and diarist, recorded in his diary: “The weather was damnable. It rained all day. The moment the procession started it positively poured and the troops were soaked.”
He went on: “Yet the procession was magnificent. The color and pageantry cannot be described. Uniforms superb and resplendent.
“The most popular figure was the Tongan Queen – a vast, brown, smiling bundle with a tall red knitting needle in her hat – knitting needle having begun as a plume of feathers. Despite the rain she refused to have the hood of her open carriage drawn and the people were delighted. They roared applause.
“Extraordinary how the public will take someone to its bosom, especially someone not very exalted who is putting up a good show. All along the route they adored her.”
As for yours truly, he was accompanied by his friends from the Central YMCA at the crack of dawn to take up an enviable position on The Mall midway between Marble Arch and Buckingham Palace. During the long, wet wait to witness the royal procession pass us by, the Times of London published a special edition on early sale among coronation crowds with the world-shattering news that on Friday, May the 29th, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had climbed the world’s highest mountain, Everest!
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
Brief Background of our Mountaineers:
Edmund Hillary with Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely – an act for which Hillary was later knighted.
The victorious Hillary, who was a 34-year-old New Zealand beekeeper, joined the expedition in India. He had had wide climbing experience in the New Zealand Alps, where heavy snowfalls and peculiar ice-falls make conditions not unlike those in the Himalayas.
Tensing made an epic ascent a year earlier with the Swiss climber, Raymond Lambert, reaching the previous record height of 28,215 feet.
Tenzing’s exact birth date is unknown but it is thought he was born in May 1914 in Khumbu, Nepal. After his ascent of Everest on May 29, 1953, he decided to celebrate his birthday on that day thereafter. He died of cerebral hemorrhage on May 8, 1986 at the age of 71.
Queen Elizabeth, resting at Buckingham Palace, was told on the eve of her coronation that the British expedition had conquered the mountain. The news was brought to her as she spent a quiet evening “at home.” The British climbers had succeeded in their plan to give her a world-shaking coronation present.
Mount Everest, the 29,002-foot giant, was the last main outpost of the world unknown to man.
- The New York Times kept pace with the breaking news by printing in boldface letters:
Queen Gets News as Coronation Gift; Throngs Line Her Procession Route: Crowds Defy Rain: Face a Day of Showers After All-Night Vigil to Hail Their Sovereign
- Reuter flashed the following news from Katmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, June the 2nd:
The British expedition has conquered Mount Everest, a radio message flashed from Namche Bazar to the British Embassy here said today.
References: My Diary; Wikipedia; On This Day Website
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Copyright © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas