BBC One to tell the story of the symbols of the Coronation in a special new film announced as part of the Royal Collection Season
In her own words The Queen will bring to life the enduring symbolic importance of the Coronation ceremonies for modern audiences to enjoy
Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content
Date: 03.01.2018 Last updated: 03.01.2018 at 12.47
As part of the Royal Collection Season across BBC television and radio, BBC One today announced The Coronation, an hour-long film revealing to new generations the compelling story of the Crown Jewels and the ancient ceremony for which they are used.
As part of the film, to mark the 65th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen's Coronation, The Queen shares memories of the ceremony as well as that of her father, King George VI, in 1937. The Crown Jewels, which form part of the Royal Collection, consist of 140 items and contain 23,000 precious stones. These sacred objects form the most complete collection of royal regalia in the world.
The Royal Collection Season, a major partnership between the BBC and Royal Collection Trust, reveals the fascinating history of the Royal Collection - one of the largest and most important art collections in the world - bringing both the masterpieces and some of the lesser-known works of art, and the stories behind them, to audiences across Britain.
Exploring the role and symbolic meaning of the Crown Jewels in the centuries-old coronation ceremony, The Coronation shows these objects of astonishing beauty in new high-resolution footage. The film tells the extraordinary story of St Edward’s Crown, which was destroyed after the English Civil War and remade for the Coronation of Charles II in 1661. It has only been worn by Her Majesty once, at the moment she was crowned.
On 2 June 1953, on one of the coldest June days of the century and after 16 months of planning, The Queen set out from Buckingham Palace to be crowned at Westminster Abbey, watched by millions of people throughout the world. A ceremony dating back more than a thousand years was to mark the dawn of a new Elizabethan age.
Viewing both private and official film footage, The Queen recalls the day when the weight of both St Edward’s Crown and the hopes and expectations of a country recovering from war were on her shoulders, as the nation looked to their 27 year-old Queen to lead them into a new era.
In the film, The Queen says: “I've seen one Coronation, and been the recipient in the other, which is pretty remarkable.”
For audiences unfamiliar with the story of the Crown Jewels and the regalia, the film explains their contemporary relevance to the UK as a nation and to the enduring purpose and the work of monarchy. They are symbols of the relationship between the Sovereign and the people, and the duties and responsibilities of leadership.
The film also features eyewitness accounts of those who participated in the 1953 Coronation, including a maid of honour who nearly fainted in the Abbey, and a 12 year-old choirboy who was left to sing solo when his overwhelmed colleagues lost their voices.
Other programmes in the Season include:
Art, Passion & Power: The Story of the Royal Collection on BBC Four, a four-part series in which Andrew Graham-Dixon reveals some of the most spectacular works of art in the Royal Collection.
Charles I's Treasures Reunited on BBC Two, in which Brenda Emmanus explores the Royal Academy’s landmark exhibition Charles I: King And Collector, organised in partnership with Royal Collection Trust.
A concert recorded in the Grand Reception Room at Windsor Castle, presented by Lucie Skeaping and including performances on historic instruments from the Royal Collection, broadcast on The Early Music Programme on BBC Radio 3.
Stories From The Royal Collection on BBC Radio 4, in which Dr Amanda Foreman discovers the captivating stories behind works of art in the Royal Collection through documentary material from the Royal Archives.
Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content, says: “It is a real honour to have Her Majesty The Queen revealing her intimate knowledge of the Crown Jewels, and fond childhood memories from when her father was crowned King George VI, in this very special film for BBC One. In her own words, The Queen will bring to life the enduring symbolic importance of the Coronation ceremonies for modern audiences to enjoy.”
Coronation expert and key contributor Alastair Bruce says: “The Crown Jewels include The Regalia, which are used at a coronation, when the monarch is invested with the best known, if least understood, symbols of this kingdom. Post boxes, Police helmets, Income Tax Returns and almost every visual expression of the United Kingdom displays a Crown and Orb.
"The meaning of each of the key objects has evolved from emblems of authority that date way back before the Saxons arrived. Yet there is an enduring relevance to modern leadership wrapped into each symbol that express values of humility, duty and service, while representing total power. Discovering their meaning helps to define what the Sovereign is to the Crown and how that Crown is the property of us all, in the constitutional function of Monarchy.”
The Coronation is made by Bafta and Emmy Award-winning Atlantic Productions. It is a co-production with Smithsonian Channel and ABC Television and distributed by FremantleMedia International. In a global event, it will be broadcast across the United States and Australia by its broadcast partners.
Anthony Geffen, CEO of Atlantic Productions, says: “The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was an international and momentous event, which took 16 months of preparation and was watched by millions across the globe for the first time in history. Our project marks another first - Her Majesty The Queen's own recollections of the time. We are honoured to be able to create this lasting historical document and hugely appreciative of the collaboration with The Royal Household and our broadcast partners.”
David Royle, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production for Smithsonian Channel, says: “Americans are fascinated by the Royal Family and have great admiration for The Queen. When the Coronation was broadcast in the U.S. in 1953, it was watched by an immense audience. At Smithsonian Channel, we take great pride in bringing definitive accounts of major events to our viewers, and this remarkably intimate portrait of the Coronation is sure to bring new levels of interest in America.”
Michael Carrington, Acting Head of Television, ABC, says: “The ABC are delighted to be the broadcast partner for this very special, historical event. The crowning of Queen Elizabeth II was a defining moment in the history of television, and the modern world, and we are excited to bring the rituals and pageantry of her Coronation to life for our ABC audiences in 2018.”
Angela Neillis, Director of Non-Scripted, UK, EMEA and Asia Pacific, FremantleMedia International, says: “Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation is a landmark television event and we are thrilled to be working with Atlantic Productions to bring their unique documentary film to international buyers. Her Majesty The Queen is a much loved and respected global figure and the Royal Family continues to fascinate audiences across the world.”
The Coronation (1x60) was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of Content and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Simon Young. The Executive Producer for Atlantic Productions is Anthony Geffen and Producer/Director is Harvey Lilley. The programme consultant is Alastair Bruce.
It took 22 years for the BBC to do the near-impossible and persuade the Queen to sit for an interview
13 Jan 2018
The BBC is airing a documentary about the Queen’s coronation 65 years ago.
It features a rare on-camera, sit-down conversation with the Queen.
It took the film’s producers 22 years to get her to do it.
They won over palace gatekeepers with a track-record of thorough, well-reported documentaries, they told Business Insider.
This weekend the BBC is broadcasting a journalistic rarity: A full, sit-down conversation with Queen Elizabeth II.
The project, a retrospective on her coronation ceremony in 1953, was 22 years in the making, and a media coup given the Queen’s historic reluctance to engage directly with the press in any way.
Her Majesty has granted behind-the-scenes access to royal life before. She also gives occasional televised speeches. But “The Coronation,” which airs on BBC1 at 8 p.m. on Sunday, will be one of her first televised exchanges with a journalist.
It also shows her interacting with various crowns involved in the ceremony, and giving a vivid description of the experience of being installed as ruler of huge swathes of the world (when she took the throne large parts of Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean were still British colonies).
Queen examines the Crown
For decades an interview has been a boundary she and Buckingham Palace officials were unwilling to cross and, indeed, the BBC and presenter Alastair Bruce prefer to characterise the encounter in “The Coronation” as a conversation. He was not allowed to ask her questions, but he did at least ask one, according to the Radio Times.
Nevertheless, it is a huge novelty and only came about after a respected team of experts, commissioned by the BBC, convinced Her Majesty.
In an interview with Business Insider, producer Anthony Geffen said securing access to the Queen for himself and Bruce was a 22-year enterprise.
It eventually came off because they impressed the palace with the impressive track record of Geffen’s company, Atlantic Productions, and the personal expertise of presenter and royal expert Alastair Bruce.
The occasion is the 65th anniversary of her coronation. The discussion sees the Queen’s reflecting on what it was like to wear her coronation crown, which weighs almost 5 pounds, and her uncomfortable journey to Westminster Abbey 65 years ago.
Teaser footage released ahead of the broadcast shows the Queen discussing the artefact, which she recalled being heavy enough to break her neck.
Geffen told Business Insider: “Alastair Bruce and I started trying to get permission to do this project 22 years ago, and it’s taken a long period of time for it to happen.
“In that time, things have changed. There’s my track record as a filmmaker and Atlantic’s track record.”
Geffen’s past works include documentaries with big names like David Attenborough, Judi Dench, and a major series on the British Parliament, “Inside the Commons,” which he said particularly impressed the palace.
He continued: “We’ve been inside the House of Commons, which the palace had seen, and they were impressed by how the series managed to balance out the political systems in place there.”
“Alastair Bruce also became a recognised royal correspondent and expert on the Coronation and the royal family.”
This meant that Buckingham Palace felt comfortable enough to agree to the filming, although it came with certain expectations and etiquette.
Discussing the exchange on BBC Radio 4 Friday morning, Bruce termed the exchange a “conversation,” and emphasised its difference from normal media interviews, often characterised by direct questioning.
He said: “You pose a point and then the Queen sometimes responds, and often conversation follows from there. But posing direct questions was not on the cards. This was a conversation with the Queen.”
Speaking to BI, Geffen contrasted their heavyweight work with other media coverage of the royals, which “on the whole has been about what they’ve been wearing. This is very different. This is about the meaning of monarchy.”
Of the film itself, Geffen said: “You can really see the Queen in a different light. You finally hear from the one person who can tell us about that [the coronation].”
Bruce, who speaks to the Queen in the documentary, added that the making of the documentary was the first time the Queen had touched her coronation crown in 65 years.
He said: “She may have seen it, but she hasn’t touched it since. It was very moving to see her lean forward to check the weight of it.”
Recalling what it was like to wear the crown at her coronation in the film, the Queen says: “You can’t look down to read the speech… Because if you did, your neck would break.”
And on her journey on the golden carriage that took her from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey? “Horrible.”
The documentary also features eyewitness accounts of people who were part of the coronation, such as a maid of honour who almost fainted in the abbey, and a choirboy who had to sing solo when his fellow choristers lost their voices, the BBC said.