3rd June 2012

What  a miserable day.

In London the rain lifted, occasionally, into persistent drizzle.

It was dank, dark, and dismally cold.

Malcolm believes that elsewhere in London some celebration was happening.


Fifty-nine years and a day ago was Coronation Day. Malcolm remembers it because it was the first extended time he had seen this wonder of black-and-white granular snow called “television”. For the record, it was at the Carpenters Arms, Wighton, Norfolk.

It rained then, too.

The best story of that day involved Queen Sālote Mafile‘o Pilolevu Tupou III of Tonga in the Coronation procession. Tonga was (and remains) to most English a small country a long, long way away.

We should also remember that the people of Britain still, in 1953, had recollections of long years of war-time rationing.

Queen Solote was, to be as polite as possible, quite a substantial lady.

Despite the miserable English climate her carriage remained open through the grim, grey London streets. The crowds therefore loved this flash of something different and remarkable. They cheered her. She rode the cheers and waved back (see image). Time Magazine memorialised the moment:

Instead of withdrawing into the shelter of her coach like most notables in the long procession from Westminster Abbey, Queen Salote sat in the drenching downpour, a massive (6 ft. 3 in., 280 Ibs.), broad-faced woman in red robes and a headdress from which two feathers stuck stiffly upright; she beamed, waved, mopped rain from her face with a handkerchief, beamed again.

She was accompanied in the same carriage by a minute east-Asian diplomat. Nobody knew who this personage was.

Hence the (typical Londoner) question: Who’s that with Queen Salote?
Stock (even more cynical Londoner) reply: It’s her lunch.

So, for something really celebratory:


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Filed under Britain, History, London, Music, Norfolk

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