Skip to content | Skip to document navigation

Research Guides

Royalty and Australian Society: Records relating to the British Monarchy held in Canberra

8 Queen Elizabeth II (1952– )

Image 35: The Queen during her first visit to Australia in 1954.

Image 35: The Queen during her first visit to Australia in 1954.
NAA: A1773, RV1262
Enlarge image - View image gallery

Queen Elizabeth II was born on 21 April 1926 and as the eldest child of George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), succeeded her father after his death in 1952.

The Queen has made numerous tours of Australia, several of which are described below. In addition, records relating to her coronation and general records about the Queen are also listed.

Coronation 1953

The Queen was crowned on 2 June 1953. This event was the focus for major pageantry and celebrations in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth. The files listed below illustrate some of the arrangements made by the Australian government in association with the event. Australia was invited to have representatives present at the ceremony itself and many celebrations in honour of the coronation occurred concurrently throughout Australia.

Amidst the official celebrations and ceremonies in London, 7 000 seats with a view of the coronation procession were allocated to Australians who would be in London for the event. Within Westminster Abbey itself, 250 seats were reserved for official Australian representatives. Within its official contingent, the Australian Government sent 250 representatives of the armed forces and seven parliamentary delegates to the coronation festivities.1

A press conference held by Earl Marshal on 5 March 1953 made the following announcements in connection with the official ceremony itself:

  • The Abbey doors would be closed by 8.30am
  • The Queen was scheduled to arrive at 11am
  • Just 50 per cent of those in the Abbey will be able to see a 'reasonable amount'.2

Personal account of the Coronation by Harold Holt

Series: M2608
Recorded by: 1962–1965 The Rt Hon Harold Edward Holt, PC, CH (CP 27)
Coronation Diary, 9th May to 23rd July 1953 M2608, 3

Harold Holt and his wife Zara were in London for the duration of all the festivities arranged in conjunction with the coronation. On Wednesday, 27 May 1953, at one of the official pre coronation functions, Holt, the President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association made a speech addressed to the Queen. At the function itself, Holt sat to the right of the Queen, with the Duke of Edinburgh to her left. Despite his anxieties about his speech ('I had to say [everything]… all in five minutes. An agony of the spirit for a politician accustomed to our own windy speech making.') Holt called it 'an unforgettable experience for me'.

In his diary entry for Tuesday 2 June, Holt goes on to describe the intricacies of the coronation ceremony itself:

It was a coldish, grey morning, with the threat of showers to come. Zara had prevailed on me to wear full evening dress – after a long struggle in which I'd fought for the greater comfort of a morning suit. I felt like some Minister from a middle European principality attending a wedding, but I was to discover there were many more in the same rig – and the morning suit would most certainly have clashed with Zara's glittering embroidered cream and gold satin.

Guests to the ceremony were seated by 7.40am and were unable to leave until the formalities were concluded at approximately 3pm. In his diary entry, Holt describes portions of the ceremony and comments at length on the toilet facilities available. He also lists the various methods employed by those assembled to secrete food into the ceremony. He then adds:

The oddest incident in the whole ceremony was the appearance, just before the Queen's procession arrived and after the other royal processions had moved through, of two aproned maids – one pushing a hand operated carpet sweeper around the Throne area, the other doing her bit of cleaning, broom in hand.

On 5 June, the Holts were invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the coronation. To Holt, it was 'quite fabulous, and, as a spectacle, even more impressive to me than the Abbey service… it was quite unforgettable, and for sheer spectacle I never expect to see the setting and the people in it surpassed in a lifetime.'

After numerous visits to various European cities, Holt concludes his diary entries on 23 July with the following:

Thus we returned from this memorable Coronation journey to what, I imagine, will be the rightful envy of our friends and the understandable malice of our enemies. Bless them all – for whatever the price, it will have been cheaply paid.

Representation of Australia at the Coronation

Examples of records include:

Series: A462
Recorded by: Accession of Queen Elizabeth – General, 1952 (CA 12)
A462, 821/1/12 Accession of Queen Elizabeth – General, 1952
Coronation – Gifts to the sovereign on the occasion of the coronation – Policy, 1936–1953 A462, 821/1/13
Coronation – Representation of Australian armed forces at the celebrations – Policy, 1936–1953 A462, 821/1/14 parts 1&2
Royalty – Coronation – Representations re contingent of Australian ex-servicemen attending coronation ceremony, 1952–1954 A462, 821/1/15
Coronation – Parliamentary delegation at ceremony – Policy, 1953–1956 A462, 821/1/17 parts 1&2
Royalty – Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth the 2nd – Arrangements for Australian visitors, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/20
Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second – Applications for seats – Policy, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/23
Royalty – Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second – Policy, 1952–1954

This file contains details of official guests, programme details and information about official coronation committees. It also sets out the extent of Australian involvement in the event.

The file also contains a bound copy of the publication The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II which was produced by the Coronation Commission of the United Kingdom. It also contains a booklet called Background to the Coronation compiled by Earl Marshal's Press Bureau.

A462, 821/1/27
Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second – Royal and official guests, 1952–1955 A462, 821/1/46 part 1
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Visit of contingent of Australian youth to London, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/50
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Financial, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/52
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Coronation dress, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/66
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Visit of Australian VC winners, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/77
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Invitation to Prime Minister to walk in procession in West Minister Abbey, 1953 A462, 821/1/93
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Representation of Australian Aborigines at coronation, 1953 A462, 821/1/95
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Visit of State Premiers to United Kingdom for coronation, 1953 A462, 821/1/101
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Visit of Dame Enid Lyons, 1953 A462, 821/1/117
Series: A463
Recorded by: 1956– Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Dr Evatt and Party – Visit to the United Kingdom for Coronation, 1952–1954 A463, 1958/3668
Series: A1838
Recorded by: 1948–1970 Department of External Affairs (CA 18)
A1838, 1255/140 part 1 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, 1952–1953
Series: A3522
Recorded by: 1935–1953 Governor-General (CA 1)
Her Majesty's invitations to Australian representatives to visit England for Coronation Ceremonies, 1953 A3522, 3
Series: A4534
Recorded by: 1947– Australian High Commission, New Zealand [Wellington] (CA 2781)
A4534, 39/2/3 Protocol – Coronation, 1952–1954
Series: A4940
Recorded by: 1958–1967 Cabinet Secretariat (CA 3)
Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1952 A4940, C619
Series: A5954
Recorded by: 1937–1971 Sir Frederick Geoffrey Shedden, KCMG, OBE (CP 320)
Australian Coronation contingent, 1936–1953 A5954, 1552/7
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – June 1953, 1952–1953 A5954, 2075/4
Series: C102
Review of Papuan/ New Guinea police contingent for coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (audio tape), 1953 C102, NG8
Series: M331
Recorded by: 1951–1974 The Rt Hon Sir Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck, KG, GCMG, GCVO, KStJ (CP 115)
Coronation – Representation of territories, 1952–1953 M331, 193
Series: SP724/1
Recorded by: 1934–1965 Australian Broadcasting Commission (CA 251)
SP724/1, 8/17/3 parts 1–3 Coronation programmes, 1952–1953
ABC Commentator, coronation, 1953 SP724/1, 8/17/4

The Australian Coronation celebrations

The files listed below relate principally to festivities organised in Canberra. Celebrations in other areas were the responsibility of the various state governments.

The crowning of a monarch is a prolonged, complicated and highly ritualistic affair. One of the main problems associated with the 1953 coronation, however, had nothing to do with these three factors. The issue, which arose because of technical advances and the public's increasing desire to remain informed, was whether the coronation should be televised.

There were members of the Coronation Joint Committee [in London] who were genuinely concerned about the burden which live television might impose on the Queen during the long service. There were also participants in the ceremony who feared that their slightest slip would be instantly transmitted to the watching millions. Finally, there were a few who were horrified by the idea that chaps in pubs would watch the Coronation over their third pint.3

It was initially decided that there would be no television coverage of the event. However, as this decision provoked huge public outcry, it was ultimately decided that portions of the ceremony should be televised across the world.

Series: A445
Recorded by: 1951–1955 Department of Immigration (CA 51)
Coronation celebrations in immigration centres, 1952–1954 A445, 112/1/33
Series: A462
Recorded by: 1951–1955 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Coronation – Official souvenirs (children), 1952–1954 A462, 821/1/22
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – Fireworks display, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/30
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – Televising of ceremony, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/31
Coronation celebrations 1953 – Canberra programme, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/33
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Public holiday, 1952–1953 A462, 821/1/40
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Decoration and illumination of Commonwealth and state buildings A462, 821/1/48
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Australia's coronation plans – Information for the London Daily Mail A462, 821/1/111
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Remission of prison sentences, 1953 A462, 821/1/120
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Coronation celebration in Canberra – Payment of travelling allowance to Members of Parliament, 1953 A462, 821/1/127
Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – Canberra arrangements – Levee – Ceremony at Parliament House 2 June 1953 A462, 821/1/132
Series: A4940
Recorded by: 1958–1967 Cabinet Secretariat (CA 3)
Coronation souvenir booklet for school children, 1952–1953 A4940, C2636
Series: M2128
Recorded by: 1934–1983 The Hon Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin DBE (CP 137)
Programme for Salvation Army Eastern Australia Territory State Coronation Congress, 4–9 June 1953 M2128, 44
Official Programme for Coronation celebrations, Canberra

The festivities in honour of the coronation detailed in this programme were scheduled to take place in Canberra from Sunday 31 May to Thursday 4 June 1953.

M2128, 50


Chapter notes | All notes

1 NAA: A462, 821/1/27

2 NAA: A462, 821/1/27

3 Brian Barker, When the Queen was Crowned, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1976, p.130