The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

2 June 1953

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, broadcast live on 2 June 1953, was the event that did more than any other to make television a mainstream medium. More than 20 million people watched the Service on television, outnumbering the radio audience for the first time. The BBC knew the event would be popular – based on the reaction to the limited broadcast of George VI's Coronation Procession - but could not foresee that it would mark the coming of age of television, as well as the modernisation of the monarchy.

Behind the scenes of the BBC broadcast of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Coronation brought the nation together, as 10.4 million people watched in the homes of friends and neighbours, and 1.5 million watched in public places like pubs and cinemas. The BBC coverage of the event included cameras installed inside Westminster Abbey for the first time, to show the Coronation Service. The Queen gave her permission for this departure, against official advice - revealing the monarchy's willingness to move with the times. Television commentary in the Abbey was provided by Richard Dimbleby, with 7 other commentators including Bernard Braden and Brian Johnston providing coverage along the processional route.

The BBC's Coronation coverage was broadcast around the world. In the United States 85 million people watched recordings of the highlights, while in Germany all 11 hours of coverage were transmitted. Reaction to the broadcasts was overwhelmingly positive. With competition from ITV only 3 years away, the BBC established an early lead as the trusted and reliable broadcaster of national events.

Further reading