Photographic print of the Queen treated to look like an oil painting, 1953, at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Inv. no. 290938. ©National Trust Collections
As the Diamond Jubilee weekend approaches, I thought I would take a look at some of the objects in the collections of the National Trust that relate to the 1953 Coronation.
Silk crêpe handkerchief, c. 1953, at Killerton, Devon. Inv. no. 1363609. ©National Trust Collections
They provide a narrowly focused but vivid snapshot of early 1950s cultural and social trends in Britain.
Blue jasperware Wedgwood teapot designed by Arnold Machin, at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria. Inv. no. 997887.2. ©National Trust Collections
Some of the items show modernist design elements, although in a muted, decorous way. Others are unashamedly traditionalist.
Wedgwood commemorative mug, c. 1953, at Greenway, Devon (Agatha Christie’s holiday home). Inv. no. 122026. ©National Trust Collections
They span the entire spectrum from cheap throwaway items to beautifully designed objects made from durable materials.
Chair of a type used by those attending the 1953 Coronation in Westminster Abbey, which could subsequently be purchased by the attendees (echoing the earlier practice of giving surplus royal furniture to courtiers as perks of office), at Chirk Castle, Wrexham. Inv. no. 1170796.1. ©National Trust Collections
But they all seem to include heraldic elements, befitting the highly symbolic, even hieratic nature of the occasion. Style Court has just done a nice post about Arnold Machin’s iconic silhouettes of the Queen.
Book of matches, Bryant & May, 1953, at Sissinghurst Castle. Inv. no. 802872. ©National Trust Collections
And the early television set reminds us that in 1953 Britain had only fairly recently entered the broadcast media age – there was debate around whether the coronation should be broadcast on television at all, and when it was decided to do so many people bought TV sets especially for the occasion. Perhaps we are in a similar transitional moment now, as interactive media supplement or take over from broadcast platforms.
1950s Bush television, at 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton, Merseyside (Paul McCartney’s childhood home). Inv. no. 2030421. ©National Trust Collections
More Coronation memorabilia can be found on the National Trust Collections website – with thanks to Philip Claris for highlighting a selection of them.
This also reminds me of the upcoming conference at the Courtauld Institute, London, entitled Art and Its Afterlives, looking at how the meaning of works of art and other objects changes and reverberates long after their original creation.