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

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.

Published: 3 January 2018
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

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.

Full details of the Royal Collection Season can be found here.


Royal Collection season

Art, Passion & Power: The Story of the Royal Collection
BBC Four, 4x60
The Royal Collection is one of the most important and largest art collections in the world. Containing over a million works, it not only covers all aspects of the fine and decorative arts, but is also a personal record of the tastes and passions of kings and queens over the last 500 years.

Forty years since the story of the Royal Collection was last told so extensively on television, a four-part series for BBC Four, made by BBC Studios, brings the many treasures of the Collection to television. Andrew Graham-Dixon selects some of the most spectacular works of art from this vast collection, as well as some of the lesser-known objects, as he visits royal residences, museums and galleries across the UK.

This is a collection that includes world-famous masterpieces by Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Canaletto and unrivalled collections of exquisite drawings by Holbein and Leonardo da Vinci. From grand sculpture and some of the most remarkable furniture ever made to Tudor miniatures and the extravagant creations of Fabergé, Andrew Graham-Dixon will explain what the objects meant to the artists who created them and to the royal collectors who acquired them. For centuries, the Royal Collection has helped the monarchy to perform its duty while also projecting its tastes, priorities and concerns.

In episode four of the series, Andrew Graham-Dixon interviews The Prince of Wales about The Prince's role as Chairman of The Royal Collection Trust, the charity responsible for the care, conservation and display of the Collection, and examines two of His Royal Highness's recent commissions of portraits of World War Two veterans.

Charles I’s Treasures Reunited
BBC Two, 1x60
This special programme for BBC Two, made by BBC Studios, will see presenter Brenda Emmanus explore the Royal Academy’s landmark exhibition Charles I: King and Collector, organised in partnership with Royal Collection Trust.

For the first time since the 17th century, and to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy in 2018, much of Charles I’s extraordinary art collection will be reassembled and displayed at the Royal Academy in London. The exhibition will include more than 90 works of art from the Royal Collection. With the help of art historians, as well as those who have worked with galleries and museums across the world to bring this extraordinary collection back together, Brenda will unpack the stories behind the works in Charles I's collection - including artists such as Dürer, Rubens, Titian and Holbein. She will tell the incredible story of how it was amassed by Charles I and then dismantled by Oliver Cromwell - and trace the King’s motivation in creating such an outstanding art collection.

The Early Music Programme
BBC Radio 3, 1x60
Lucie Skeaping presents a concert recorded in the Grand Reception Room at Windsor Castle, including performances on historic instruments held in the Royal Collection. Flautist Ashley Solomon will perform on a Meissen porcelain transverse flute, dating from c.1760, Chi-Chi Nwanoku will demonstrate the early 19th-century double bass made by Vicenzo Panormo and possibly used by Queen Victoria’s private band, and keyboard player Julian Perkins will play the two-manual harpsichord built by Barkat Shudi in 1740.

Stories from the Royal Collection
BBC Radio 4, 1x30
Dr Amanda Foreman explores some of the extraordinary stories behind works of art in the Royal Collection through documentary material from the Royal Archives, including how Charles II attempted to reinstate the great losses to his father’s unparalleled art collection once the monarchy had been restored following the Civil War.

Amongst the fascinating objects explored are the satirical prints by Thomas Rowlandson of the future George IV, who secretly sent an eminent violinist (who later would become Master of Music to the King) to intervene with the publishers and buy up the complete print run and original plates to try to stifle criticism.

Amanda Foreman reveals just how instrumental Prince Albert was in motivating the minds behind the Great Exhibition of 1851, the world's first fair of arts, crafts and manufacturing that put British technological pre-eminence on view to over six million visitors from across the globe. She also examines Queen Victoria’s notebook, containing the details of her first State Visit to meet Napoleon III in France - a country that only 40 years earlier was Britain’s deadliest foe.

BBC Local Radio
BBC Local Radio stations across England will be talking to Royal Collection Trust curators, who will tell listeners about the objects from the Collection on display close to where they live, and how they can search the Collection online to discover other items that have links with their area.