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Coronation Maids

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 21 April 2013

When Britain's 27-year-old newly crowned Queen emerged from Westminster Abbey on June 2 1953, she was flanked by her Maids of Honour: six of the country's most blue-blooded young women, all single, beautiful and, like the Queen, wearing gowns by Hartnell.

According to Lady Glenconner, then 20-year-old Lady Anne Coke, daughter of the Earl of Leicester, they were seen as the Spice Girls of their day.

The Maids' wardrobes and social lives were gossip-column fodder, and sometimes even front-page news, from the moment their identities were revealed until the day of the Coronation. In their New Look suits and demure hats and heels they would be endlessly photographed as the nation, still in the grip of post-war austerity, hungered for some light relief.

Queen Elizabeth followed a precedent set by Queen Victoria by having Maids of Honour instead of pages to bear her Coronation train. It was their duty to unfurl the cumbersome train as she alighted from the Gold State Coach outside Westminster Abbey and hold it aloft using six silk handles invisibly stitched into its underside.

'Ready, girls?' the Monarch asked her attendants as they paused at the Abbey doors to begin their historic procession to the altar.

Now, 60 years on from that historic day they join Sue MacGregor in The Reunion.

Producer: Emily Williams
Series Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.


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