You think watching the Netflix series “The Crown” is fun? Try this documentary for size.
It also features a royal crown. Only this one is real.
This past week, fans of Queen Elizabeth II were treated to something rare: a sit-down “interview.” Her first one, ever.
In honor of the 65th anniversary of her coronation, the queen agreed to a filmed conversation (not an interview, per se), which was produced by the BBC. The documentary, called “The Coronation,” airs in the U.S. on the Smithsonian Channel, including tonight at 8 p.m. (check listings for your area).
The host of the conversation was Alastair Bruce, the historical adviser for PBS’ “Downton Abbey.” Fans of that series may remember Bruce appeared at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts in December 2015. Then, his presentation was “More Manners of Downton Abbey.” This time, he is sitting down with Britain’s longest reigning monarch as she shares her memories of Coronation Day, June 2, 1953.
The queen wore two crowns at the coronation: the St. Edward’s Crown, which she has never worn since, and the Imperial State Crown, which she wears at formal occasions such as the opening of Parliament.
Now 91, the queen shares her memories of what it was like to wear the 5-pound St. Edward’s Crown.
"You can't look down to read the speech... Because if you did, your neck would break, and it would fall off," she says.
According to The New York Times, “The Coronation” is the first time the crown jewels, the collection of coronation regalia, has been filmed. The show’s producer tells The Times he was not allowed to film the crowns from above, “because that vantage point is reserved for God.”
In 2013, I had the good fortune to visit to Buckingham Palace during a special exhibit honoring the 60th anniversary of the queen’s coronation. It’s hard to believe five years have passed.
Among the items on display were the gowns, uniforms and robes worn by the major participants at the incredible ceremony. Most spectacular to me was the queen’s gown with a 21-foot train.
The dress is decorated with symbols from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, such as maple leaves for Canada, wheat sheaves for Pakistan, lotus flowers for South Africa, the English rose, Welsh leeks, Scottish thistles and Irish shamrocks.
The dress sparkles, and it’s not rhinestones causing the bling effect. Diamonds, crystals, pearls, and amethysts decorate the dress. And the thread is gold.
The needlework on the gown was mind-boggling. Six needle-workers stitched around the clock for 3,500 hours to complete it.
“Look how tiny the waist is on that dress!” my friends and I said as we stared in awe. We held up our hands in a circle to mimic the small circumference of the royal waistline. The 27-year-old queen certainly was petite.
Prince Charles, a grandfather today, was a mere lad of 4 at his mother’s coronation. His little outfit was on display, too. Even cuter was filmed footage of the Prince of Wales goofing off during the official royal photo shoot.
The military uniform of the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, was also on display. According to the guide that day, the Duke of Edinburgh can still fit into it.
Famously, the coronation was the first to be televised (my mother remembers watching it as a young girl). Organizers were faced with the challenge of discreetly setting up cameras and lights in Westminster Abbey. A small hole was made in the carpet under the queen’s throne and a microphone lead was fed through it to pick up sound. The microphone was attached to the leg of the throne and painted gold to disguise it.
Among the details about the coronation highlighted in the BBC documentary, the queen shares her views on crowns. Yes, they are heavy to wear, but “otherwise they're quite important things."