Queen Elizabeth II Gives Rare Insight Into Her 1953 Coronation

In a Smithsonian Channel documentary, she looks back at a day that change her life forever

By Zach Johnson Jan 03, 2018 1:20 PMTags
Queen Elizabeth IIJulian Calder

In her six-decade reign, Queen Elizabeth II has never given an interview.

But the 91-year-old monarch comes close in a new one-hour documentary The Coronation. In the film, she reflects on her coronation and the ornate crown used on that day. In addition to sharing memories of her own ceremony, which occurred at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, she also looks back at her dad King George VI's coronation on May 12, 1937. "I've seen one coronation, and been the recipient in the other," she recalls, "which is pretty remarkable."

The Coronation airs on Smithsonian Channel in the U.S. Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. ET; the film was made in partnership with the BBC and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It is truly an honor to have Her Majesty The Queen revealing her intimate knowledge of the Crown Jewels—and fond childhood memories from when her father was crowned King George VI—in this very special BBC One film," Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content, tells E! News. "The Queen's words will bring to life the importance of the coronation ceremony for modern audiences to enjoy."

Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Style Through the Years
Press Association via AP Images

"Fascination with the Royal Family has probably never been higher than today, and there is great admiration for the Queen. When the coronation was broadcast in the U.S. in 1953, it was the first time the U.S. networks broadcast same-day coverage of European events, and it was watched by an immense audience," David Royle, Smithsonian Channel's executive vice president of programming and production, said in a statement. "Now, this program sweeps aside the fictional dramas of more recent times and brings our viewers the definitive account of the Crown Jewels and their role in this ancient and remarkable event. This is a uniquely intimate portrait of the coronation that is sure to create new levels of interest in America."

The upcoming documentary is part of the Royal Collection Season, a partnership between the BBC and Royal Collection Trust. In The Coronation, the Queen reviews private and public footage with coronation expert and key contributor Alastair Bruce. "The Crown Jewels include The Regalia, which are used at a coronation, when the monarch is invested with the best known, if least understood, symbols of this kingdom. Post boxes, police helmets, income tax returns and almost every visual expression of the United Kingdom displays a crown and orb. The meaning of each of the key objects has evolved from emblems of authority that date way back before the Saxons arrived. Yet there is an enduring relevance to modern leadership wrapped into each symbol that express values of humility, duty and service, while representing total power," he said. "Discovering their meaning helps to define what the Sovereign is to the crown and how that crown is the property of us all, in the constitutional function of monarchy."

Though The Queen often makes public speeches, she is the only member of the Royal Family who has never sat down for a formal interview. The closest she came was in 1992, when she provided commentary on various aspects of her life for a BBC documentary to mark her 40th year on the throne. Soon after it aired, however, the palace pulled the TV special—titled Elizabeth R—from the public view, as it felt it intruded too much into the Queen and her Court.