Queen Elizabeth Watched Her Own Coronation for the First Time and Here’s What Happened

For the first time ever, videographers gained access to the Crown Jewels to film them and also spoke to Queen Elizabeth II for the upcoming documentary The Coronation.

The queen not only granted permission for the jewels to be seen and captured for the show, but she also watched footage of her own coronation (which took place back in 1953)—which she had never done before. As she looked at the footage from 65 years ago, the queen shared her insight into what it was like to actually wear the heavy Imperial State Crown with royal family reporter Alastair Bruce.

“You can’t look down to read the speech, you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break and it (the crown) would fall off,” she said while smiling. “So there are some disadvantages to crowns but otherwise they’re quite important things.”

Royal Collection Trust/ Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

She also revealed that riding in an enormous golden carriage was less fun than you’d expect.

“Horrible. It’s only sprung on leather, not very comfortable, she said. “We could only go at a walking pace. The horses couldn’t possibly go any faster. It’s so heavy.”

Bruce watched the footage alongside Queen Elizabeth, but he does more than just reporting—he’s also one of the queen’s officers of arms, and he’s such an expert in the semiotics (the language of symbols) of the nation that the Buckingham Palace often calls him for input and advice. Bruce spoke to InStyle about talking with Queen Elizabeth and his theory about why she might be choosing to speak publicly on this right now.

“I think partly because it is the 65th anniversary year … ” he said. “Now why do I think it’s happening now, I have no idea. I think that the queen must understand that, as we do as producers, that it’s been 65 years since we’ve had a coronation and the British public have been aware of the Crown Jewels, but think they’ve become the best known and least understood symbols of the country as a result of that amount of time not being in use, and maybe that’s what led her to do it now.”

Royal Collection Trust/ Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

Despite this, Bruce was happy to shed light on exactly how momentous an occasion it must have been for the queen, calling it a “pretty challenging day for her as a 25-year-old.”

“There is a tradition in the English coronation that if you have a monarch who slips or drops something or anything like that—in fact, Richard II’s slipper fell off when he was being carried back to bed because he had fallen asleep during the ceremony, and everyone saw that as a bad omen. That sort of pressure that you mustn’t make an error, for the first time being filmed and televised to the world,” he said.

“This is a huge challenge, I would imagine, for anybody to perform without fault through a medieval ceremony that has unbelievable symbolism and meaning. [While] wearing regalia—that was designed for your forebear King Charles II—in 1661, including a crown that is five pounds in weight.:I just want you to imagine laying out five pounds of sugar bags and putting that on your head, but imagine it’s a hat that is made to be too big for you. Can you imagine having that sort of pressure on you? I think it must have been a hell of a day for her.”

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Despite the intense pressure that must have been on her at the time, Bruce said Queen Elizabeth spoke of the coronation with lightness and clarity.

“She talks very cleanly and with a clarity of memory that was a delight. She’s also got a wonderful sense of humor in a way without in any form undermining the story or the symbols or what the coronation is about,” he said. “I think she’s very humble toward the role that she holds, and that makes her unwilling to be too ponderous or to dwell in anything other than a delightfully light way.”

Tune into the full documentary The Coronation, which airs in the U.S. on the Smithsonian Channel, Sunday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. ET. It was made in partnership with the BBC and Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is part of the Royal Collection Season, a collaboration between the BBC and Royal Collection Trust.

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