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On June 2, 1953, Prime Minister Winston Churchill participated in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. The coronation day began with the announcement on the radio at 7:30 am that Edmond Hillary and Tensing Norkay had climbed Mount Everest. Later in the day, Churchill sent a message of congratulations to the climbers. With millions of people lining the streets of London despite the rain, Churchill was loudly cheered as he arrived with his wife Clementine at the abbey at 9:42 that morning. Wearing the uniform of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, an office he had held since 1946, he led the 11 Commonwealth Prime Ministers attending the coronation. After the ceremony was completed, with the Queen crowned at 12:23 pm, Churchill departed the abbey at 2:45 in the afternoon to join the extended procession through London back to Buckingham Palace. He was now wearing the cape velvet hat and plumes of a Knight of the Garter. The rain created problems during the procession as the horses had difficulty pulling the slipping carriages. At Trafalgar Square, Churchill’s landau had to fall out of the line. The coach eventually rejoined the end of the procession. The prime minister, however, felt it was inappropriate for him to continue behind the state coach, which is by tradition the last in the procession. As such, after passing through Admiralty Arch, he directed his coachman to fall out of the line and return directly to 10 Downing Street.

“We have had a day which the oldest of us are proud to have lived to see and which the youngest will   remember all their lives,” Churchill said that evening as he began his brief speech to introduce Queen Elizabeth II’s radio address. Saying that the age of chivalry did not belong to the past, he called the young Queen a “gleaming figure.” He concluded that, “it is our dearest hope that her reign shall be as glorious as her devoted subjects can help her make it. We pray to have rulers who serve, nations who comfort each other and for peoples to thrive and prosper free from fear.”

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