Bill Turnbull explores the significant role of Westminster Abbey during HM the Queen's 60-year reign; the Bishop of London reflects on her lifetime of faith.
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Today, we're remembering an historic day, 60 years ago,
when a young Princess Elizabeth arrived at Westminster Abbey.
As she walks down the aisle, the eyes of the world were upon her
as people crowded round television sets to watch the service.
Welcome to a very special edition of Songs Of Praise as we join the celebrations
to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen,
a reign of six decades and a lifetime of Christian faith.
This week, I'll be talking to the Bishop of London about Her Majesty's strong faith,
we catch up with a chorister who sang a solo at the historic service in Westminster Abbey,
and there is spectacular Coronation music from Canterbury Cathedral.
When the Queen was crowned, six decades ago,
she became not only the Head of State of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms,
but also Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The ancient and magnificent building that is the mother church
of Anglicans worldwide is Canterbury Cathedral.
And tucked away in a quiet corner of the building
is the cathedral's own tribute to the Queen's Coronation.
The cathedral's had a high-profile this year
with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,
enthroned here in March.
Let us greet our newly installed Archbishop with great gladness.
In Her Majesty's lifetime, there have been ten Archbishops of Canterbury,
and amazingly, she has now reigned over seven of them.
The cathedral's almost like two separate churches
with the nave here at one end and the quire -
Q-U-I-R-E - through that screen to the east.
And it's in the quire that we're having our musical celebration.
This is St Augustine's chair.
He was the first ever Archbishop of Canterbury some 14 centuries ago.
Today, it's surrounded by Songs Of Praise singers
from churches, choirs and schools around Canterbury.
In what we believe to be a first for Songs Of Praise,
they're going to sing two of the same spine-tingling pieces of music
that Her Majesty would have heard during her Coronation 60 years ago,
beginning with Hubert Parry's I Was Glad.
The Queen is no stranger to Canterbury Cathedral.
Her earliest recorded visit was with her parents
as a young Princess Elizabeth in 1946.
Cressida, thank you very much for letting us into the library here.
You've got some wonderful memories of the Queen's earlier visits to Canterbury?
Yes, indeed. Starting in 1946, which was her first visit to Canterbury.
-What was that for?
-That was for the service of thanksgiving
for the preservation of the cathedral after World War II.
In the cathedral itself, there is a painting commemorating the occasion as well.
-Tell us about that.
-It shows the royal party leaving the quire area.
It's symbolic in a way, because you see, standing in the spotlight,
if you like, are the King and Queen.
And just behind them is the Princess Elizabeth.
Yes, she's walking very much behind her parents.
Just a few years later though, she was to become Queen herself.
And to mark that occasion, the cathedral has its own window.
Yes, we have a Coronation window which was unveiled in 1954
which commemorates the Queen's Coronation,
but also the Coronation of her father, King George VI.
Why is it important for the cathedral here in Canterbury to have a royal connection?
The Queen is the head of the Church of England
and Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England.
So it's very important that there is a strong connection with the monarch.
The next major visit was the visit for the Royal Maundy in 1965.
It is a very ancient tradition,
but Queen Elizabeth has really made it her own.
She has attached great importance to the Royal Maundy during her reign.
The monarch travels throughout the country,
very much making contact with the people.
And she distributes the Maundy money which is an award.
-And the next one at Canterbury was when?
And you got a gift of your own that day, didn't you?
Well, not quite a gift!
At the end of the service, there was, on the table, left,
one of the Maundy posies. It didn't appear to have an owner.
I made a few enquiries and then it did seem entirely appropriate to take it home.
There are a number of members of the party at Royal Maundy who hold nosegays,
I'm not sure whose it was.
-Not the Queen's?
-Certainly not the Queen's!
The Dean and Chapter intends to mark the recent Jubilee
with two statues for the west front of the cathedral.
So, a statue of the Queen and of Prince Philip.
At which time, there will presumably be another service of dedication?
-I'm very sure there will, yes.
-And another royal visit?
That, I think, is yet to be confirmed.
-But it would be lovely to have them here?
-It would. Very definitely.
The Bishop of London is not only responsible for the Anglican churches in the capital city,
but also the royal chapels.
You'll know the royal family well
from your work as Dean of the Chapels Royal.
the Queen is someone who is of deep spiritual faith.
I think that's become very publicly clear,
hasn't it, from her Christmas broadcasts?
Because they have been much more explicitly Christian,
and she has always had a very firm and deep faith.
I think that that actually corresponds
with a very great turn in the tide.
Because I remember...
Actually it was a director-general of the BBC
giving a lecture not so long ago, and saying that of course,
25 years ago, 30 years ago,
when the Queen was already 30 years on the throne,
everybody was convinced that the story of God would have only one ending.
And it would be relegation to the leisure sector.
It would be the harmless hobby of fairly eccentric people.
Well, nobody is saying that now.
So, the Queen has united all these periods, and very appropriately,
I think, for the present, for this contemporary age,
she is being much more explicit about her own faith.
60 years on, do you think, as a nation,
we treasure the concept of that Coronation as much as we should?
One of the most extraordinary things about monarchy in this country,
again and again,
the actual event is hugely uniting.
I think that was true of the Coronation,
although at that time, Britain was emerging from austerity.
I remember, I think I still had my own ration card.
In 1953, we still had ration cards then.
And it had been a rather drab, austere world as we recovered.
There were bomb sites everywhere in London.
So, I think the Coronation had a particular role there.
The reaction to the Queen when she goes on her visits
has always been beyond what people might expect.
And the number of people who talk about the lightest word,
which is why, of course, the Queen has to be very careful.
She knows very well. Because what she says is remembered for a lifetime.
-It's a big responsibility.
-It's a huge responsibility
and, I think, unless you have gone through every day being engaged,
being interested, reaching out to people who may be in awe,
looks quite easy, but actually, it is an enormous responsibility.
And one which, I think,
if you're thinking about the PR profession, public relations.
They're all experts on how you keep yourself in the public eye for about 10 years.
Because after 10 years in the public eye, people are very tired of you.
The Queen, seems to me, is perhaps the only expert
on how you keep yourself in the public eye for more than 80 years,
and people want more.
The choir of Westminster Abbey played an important role in the Coronation service.
Not from the usual choir stalls here, but up there,
where they had a bird's-eye view of the unforgettable scene below.
We were in a specially created sort of box, if you like.
And we were on the front row. We always liked to be in the front row.
So we had as good a view as was possible to have.
Albeit, clearly, you had to crane towards your right to really see
what was going on when Her Majesty was at the high altar,
because that wasn't readily in our vision.
And we also had to watch the beat from Dr McKie
to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to do.
But, at every opportunity, we were able to sort of lean around
and check it out, which was great.
And your memories in living colour.
Most of us just remember this rather wide shot
in grainy black-and-white, not great sound.
But, you, of course, had a box seat.
My overriding memory really is...
It's perhaps a strange word to use, but it was the "glamour" of it.
It was the most extraordinary feeling of...
light and gold and ermine
and purple and red and diamonds and what have you.
An extraordinary feeling, a bit like a major Hollywood movie in a way.
That was the overriding feeling that I got.
And there were certain moments which were quite extraordinary.
I remember when the actual crown was placed on Her Majesty's head,
it seemed to be very, very slow before it actually got there.
And the yell from the boys of Westminster School shouting, "Vivat, Vivat, Regina!"
# Vivat, Regina Elizabetha!
# Vivat! #
I get goosebumps thinking about it.
I mean, that is a huge thrill, when you realise
that actually, you were in the presence of history.
You must have been stuck up there for some time.
I think it was about six hours.
And part of the fun for us was for the first time,
we were allowed to bring a packed lunch.
Were you eating during the service?!
Yes, absolutely. That was a no-go area, as you can imagine.
That was not part of the discipline.
So, to be able to do that legitimately,
with permission, was great.
I was personally very lucky because William McKie, Dr McKie,
chose three boys to sing a solo in unison
for a specially commissioned anthem called O Taste And See.
It was a huge honour, of course.
And I think Dr McKie hedged his bets because I think the event
was so huge that he thought, if one of us got nervous,
then at least the other two would come in.
I was the boy who got nervous.
SOLO CHOIR: "O Taste And See"
-I did come in slightly later, but full throttle once I got there.
-I'm sure nobody noticed!
It was a magnificent ceremony all the way through,
but some moments would have stood out more than others.
For instance, when the Queen first entered the Abbey.
I Was glad... I mean, one of the most fantastic, exhilarating,
powerful pieces of music one would ever have the good fortune to sing.
And I loved that. It was great.
The last rehearsal, which I believe was when Her Majesty came.
She was wearing the Imperial Crown
and she processed from the Great West Door to the High Altar.
And she did ask the Duke of Norfolk to ask Dr McKie, the master of the choristers,
if we could sing a little quicker because the crown was heavy.
-I think I didn't make that up.
Very happy days indeed, yes.
I feel a huge sense of pride.
I'm a great royalist anyway
and I feel that, having been given this opportunity
and this God-given gift which I was given,
to have been a part of this extraordinary ceremony is truly great.
# The Lord's my shepherd
# I'll not want
# He makes me down to lie
# In pastures green
# He leadeth me
# The quiet waters by
# He leadeth me, He leadeth me
# The quiet waters by
# My soul He doth restore again
# And me to walk doth make
# Within the paths of blessedness
# E'en for His own name's sake
# Within the paths of blessedness
# E'en for His own name's sake
# Yea, though I pass thro' shadowed vale
# Yet will I fear no ill
# For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
# And staff me comfort still
# Thy rod and staff me comfort still
# Me comfort still
# Goodness and mercy all my days
# Will surely follow me
# And in my Father's heart always
# My dwelling place shall be
# And in my Father's heart always
# My dwelling place shall be. #
It's time now to hear another sublime piece of choral music
based on the Old Testament words from the First Book Of Kings.
It's been sung at every coronation since that of George II.
And 60 years ago, Her Majesty would have heard this
at the very moment she became sovereign.
Our congregation are led by pupils from schools in Canterbury
in Handel's glorious anthem, Zadok The Priest.
God of time and eternity,
we give you thanks and praise that you have blessed this nation
with Elizabeth, our beloved Queen.
Grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace.
As she continues in faithful obedience, to you, her Lord and God,
and in devoted service to her lands and peoples,
and those of the Commonwealth.
Now, and all the days of her life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On Tuesday, the Queen will be back here at Westminster Abbey
to attend a service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.
And, of course, we send our very best wishes and congratulations to Her Majesty.
Our final hymn perhaps sums up the Queen's lifetime
of Christian faith and dedication - Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
Next week, Pam Rhodes visits Leeds Central Library
and introduces a treasury of hymns
telling stories of every human experience and emotion,
sung by congregations from all over the country.
And there are performances from Willard White
and Russell Watson.
Before we go, I'm pleased to announce details of this year's Big Sing
at The Royal Albert Hall on Sunday, September 8th.
And as we're going to be singing the UK's top 10 hymns and carols,
it's going to be a pretty special occasion.
Here is the phone number for you to purchase tickets.
The only number to call is...
Calls cost up to 5p a minute from most landlines
and an additional connection fee may also apply.
Calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.
You'll find the telephone number and more information
on the Songs Of Praise website...
The Big Sing is always popular, so you'll have to be quick.
If you're going to be there, I look forward to seeing you.
If you can't make it,
you'll have a front-row seat by staying just where you are.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Bill Turnbull explores the significant roles of Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral during HM the Queen's 60-year reign; the Bishop of London reflects on Her Majesty's lifetime of faith, a solo chorister describes taking part in the big day in 1953 and celebratory music sung in Canterbury Cathedral includes the glorious Coronation anthems I Was Glad and Zadok the Priest.