On 2 June 1953, millions of eyes were glued to television screens across the country and indeed across Europe and the world. For the first time in history, the Coronation of a sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, was broadcast live on television. Unknown to many, Alexandra Palace’s BBC Studios played an instrumental role in the event which changed the face of broadcast television.
At 10:15, from its prime position at the summit of Alexandra Park, the Alexandra Palace’s BBC transmitter tower broadcast Sylvia Peters’ announcement to the people launching the first Coronation to be televised in history: “This is the BBC Television Service. Good morning everyone. This is a great day and joyous day for us all. In a few minutes our Queen starts on her journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, there to be crowned Queen Elizabeth the second.”
From her ascension to the throne in 1952, a year of planning by the BBC was carried out to ensure this historic day would be a success despite television cameras initially being banned from filming the Coronation Service from within Westminster Abbey. However, with Her Majesty the Queen’s backing, television history was made at Alexandra Palace for the second time since the world’s first public high-definition broadcast in 1936, and the Coronation was filmed and broadcast live to the public. The Palace’s BBC Studios were a buzz of activity with all staff on duty. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was even present and had installed their own telerecording system to record the BBC’s Coronation broadcast live at the Studios. Throughout the day, the CBC’s recordings were transported by helicopter from Alexandra Park’s cricket pitch to London Airport where they were flown by RAF Canberra jet bombers to Canada for urgent transmission on the day itself.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive for Alexandra Palace said: “It is fitting that in the year that we celebrate 60 years since the BBC’s historic broadcasting of Her Majesty the Queen’s Coronation, we have secured Heritage Lottery Funding to develop our regeneration plans for the BBC Studios at Alexandra Palace. Our regeneration will ensure significant moments in television history such as this will be celebrated drawing on the rich television archive interpreted for the public here at Alexandra Palace.”