George VI’s coronation at Westminster Abbey took place on 12 May 1937, the date previously intended for Edward’s coronation. The ceremony was attended by the King and Queen’s daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, as well as by the King’s mother, the dowager Queen Mary, making it the first British coronation attended by an already crowned queen.
The coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth and as Emperor and Empress of India took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on 12 May 1937. King George ascended the throne upon the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, on 10 December 1936, three days before his 41st birthday. Edward’s coronation had been planned for 12 May 1937 and it was decided to continue with his brother and sister-in-law’s coronation on the same date.
Although the music included a range of new anthems and the ceremony underwent some alterations to include the Dominions, it remained a largely conservative affair and closely followed the ceremonial of King George V’s coronation in 1911. The ceremony began with the anointing of the King, symbolising his spiritual entry into kingship, and then his crowning and enthronement, representing his assumption of temporal powers and responsibilities. The peers of the realm then paid homage to the King before a shorter and simpler ceremony was conducted for the Queen’s coronation.
The return procession to Buckingham Palace was over six miles in length, making it the longest coronation procession up to that time; crowds of people lined the streets to watch it, over thirty-two thousand soldiers took part and twenty thousand police officers lined the route. The coronation was commemorated by the issuing of official medals, coinage, and stamps, by military parades across the Empire, and by numerous unofficial celebrations, including street parties and the production of memorabilia.
The coronation cost £454,000, which was more than three times the cost of the 1911 ceremony
The procession was broadcast on the BBC Television Service, which had only been operating since the previous November. Several tons of television cables, measuring 8 miles (13 km), were laid across central London, so that the images from three Emitron television cameras could be sent to the transmission centre at Alexandra Palace. Commentary was by Frederick Grisewood, who was with the cameras at Hyde Park Corner. The coverage of the procession is regarded as being the BBC’s first outside broadcast.
In reviewing the broadcast, The Daily Telegraph commented: “Horse and foot, the Coronation procession marched into English homes yesterday,” while the Daily Mail said: “When the King and Queen appeared the picture was so vivid that one felt that this magical television is going to be one of the greatest of all modern inventions.”