Long live the Queen!
Nothing seems more all-American than loving all things royal. When it comes to pomp and circumstance no one does it better.
As Buckingham Palace is pulling out all the stops to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the British throne, Americans are as fascinated as they were by the Coronation that took place on June 2, 1953, when the beloved 25-year-old princess acceded to the throne upon the death of her father George VI in February 1952.
As captivated as we are with the current upcoming Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, it is rivaled only by the excitement we felt 69 years earlier, for the coronation. Not unlike today when brands released special products and tie-ins for her Jubilee, so they did for her enthroning.
A full five months before the actual crowning, articles on the celebration and the Royal family ran regularly in every magazine and American advertisers were not shy about tying their product into the upcoming investiture.
Companies hoped to cash in on the once in a lifetime cultural moment aimed to connect their brands to the celebration of the Queen,
Cashing in on the Coronation
It was spring of 1953.
The Queen was to be crowned.
Coronation fever was in the air and the excitement spread across the pond where Americans were ready to cash in on Coronation fever. When the American colonies broke off allegiance to the crown centuries ago, we apparently reserved the right to enjoy certain things British such as that greatest show which the Commonwealth has: The Coronation.
The Union Jacks were out in every corner of the land as streets were lined with bunting, bells, and Brits armed with, blankets binoculars, cameras, and umbrellas in anticipation of the great Coronation of Elizabeth II.
From all corners of Britain’s Empire came premieres, maharajas, sultans, princes, and chieftains to pay homage to a British Queen… and for one lucky American, you could be there too!
Yes, you, Mrs. Average American housewife sitting at your chrome dinette kitchen table, sipping your Nescafe Instant Coffee from your unbreakable melamine coffee cup. You could join the peers and peeress to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II.
In fact pour yourself another cup, because Nescafe-that king of instant coffee who boasted “it was equal parts pure coffee and added carbohydrates“- sponsored a Coronation contest in early 1953.
In 25 words or less all you had to do was describe why you prefer Nescafe Coffee to all others…. and a once in a lifetime chance to see the Coronation Festivities in London plus a bonus 3 days in glorious Paris could be all yours!
Like Cinderella you would leave your wash n’ wear house-coat behind and dressed like a Duchess in your best lightweight tweed from Donegal suit by Hardy Ames, Pan Am would whisk Mr. and Mrs. America across the pond to see the pageantry of England on Coronation day where m’lady would rub elbows with real-life Lords and Lady’s in full Coronation regalia.
Pan Am Gives The Royal Treatment
The lucky winner would be whisked to London on a luxurious flight courtesy of the Pan where they received a royal welcome aboard their double-decker Strato Clipper.
Imagine flying in the lap of luxury, feted with champagne, liquors, and perfumes, served a sumptuous gourmet meal then afterward retiring to sleep in a luxurious sleeper berth, only to awaken to breakfast in bed before you land in jolly old England, refreshed for the coronation festivities
When was the last time you referred to an overseas flight as a magic carpet ride, or a dream come true?
But in the early 1950s luxurious air travel was indeed available to any Mr. or Mrs. Average American if they wanted to cross the pond.
Pampered By Pan Am
Sure the trip was a lot longer than today’s flights, but take a gander at these perks as described in the advertisement:
“Nothing finer, you know, flies the Atlantic on the extra fare President Special to London!
“There’s a sumptuous buffet table for between meal snacks…a seven course dinner by Maxims of Paris- preceded by cocktails, graced with vintage champagne, followed by fine liquor.”
“Overnight bag. Perfume and orchids for the ladies.”
Think of that the next time you choke on those stale peanuts the airline feeds you washed down with your complimentary coke zero.
Britain Dresses Up for the Queen
Worried about your wardrobe. Did you dream you attended the Coronation in your Maidenform Bra?
Before you sit down at your new slant needle Singer Sewing machine to whip out a few new frocks, best to take a quick glance through Life Magazine’s helpful Coronation fashion guide.
Coronation Fashion Tips
Put away those lightweight cottons girls, and take your winter brocades out of mothballs as they were quite popular in merry old summertime England.
With a happy disregard for cost, British ladies we learned were refurbishing their wardrobes to celebrate the official crowning of Elizabeth II, even if some had to sell a family portrait to do so.
A helpful take-away Tiara Tip:
Tiaras may be worn to any function the queen attends if the invitation calls for white ties for men; if it specifies black tie the tiara is left home since the Queen may come bareheaded.
At the coronation a peeress (anyone with the rank of Baroness or above) should wear a coronet whose design is prescribed by court etiquette. Ordinary ladies may wear a tiara.
Along with packing your tweeds silks and plumage, a quick dash to the family bank vault to retrieve the family jewels seemed in order.
Fit For A Queen
Have problems zipping up the old ball gown you wore to the last Elks Club dinner dance?
Perhaps you’d been feasting on too much Coronation Vanilla ice cream from Meadow Gold.
Not to worry.
Just dig into a tempting waist-whittling dish of canned cling peaches cut to form a crown over a mound of cottage cheese ( the addition of cherry “jewels” adds just the regal touch ) cleverly called peach Coronation Salads will add a crowning touch for spring meals.
Queen For a Day
While many folks felt darn lucky to have front row seats to the first time ever televised crowning of the Queen as they watched the proceedings in their own homes, you would be pampered with reserved seats at the Coronation.
And as feted with refreshments by real-life members of the British peerage ( which undoubtedly included Nescafe coffee instead of proper British Tea) followed by dinner at a famous club.
Then it was off to gay Paree where perhaps a quick toast with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor without whose abdication this celebration would never have taken place.
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