TV Guide Throwback: How The Queen’s Coronation Was Televised in 1953

Queen Elizabeth Coronation - TV Guide Cover
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In 1953, TV Guide Magazine put Queen Elizabeth on its cover for the first televised coronation of a monarch. The title of the story was “A Queen is Crowned,” and it detailed some of the technical innovations of the time. The story is published below in full.

A Queen is Crowned


Television networks will unveil their latest technical innovations June 2 to bring viewers complete coverage of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, including the use of jet planes to speed films across the ocean and possibly the first live pickup to span the Atlantic.

Because of the five-hour time differential between London and New York, American viewers will be forced to climb out of bed at dawn if they’re to watch the start of the Coronation ceremonies. Both CBS and NBC plan to go on the air at 5:30 A.M., bringing viewers a description of the royal procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. ABC’s Coronation coverage starts at 8 A.M., and DuMont will take the air in late afternoon or early evening.

All four networks are expected to carry the Queen’s first official address at about 4 P.M. Each of the four will return again at 6 P.M. to show the first films taken in London earlier that day. These are to be British Broadcasting Corp. kinescopes, which will be flown in RAF jet bombers from London to Montreal, from where they’ll be transmitted to New York. The networks plan to round out their Coronation coverage at 10:30 P.M. with later BBC kinescopes.

It’s for those early morning telecasts that the networks will spring their new trans-oceanic TV techniques. NBC for the last several months has been monitoring BBC video pictures in a direct live pickup from London. The BBC signal is being bounced once off the ionosphere and slanted via direct line-of-sight beam to a high-powered receiving antenna on a remote Long Island outpost. NBC claims to have been receiving the BBC pictures steadily, although the quality is somewhat fuzzy.


If atmospheric conditions are favorable on Coronation Day, NBC hopes to bring viewers at least occasional live pickups from London during that 5:30 A.M. show. If the attempt fails, it will rely on the same system to be employed by CBS and ABC. This will involve a live voice pickup from England (actually only radio) but backgrounded in the New York studios by movies, wire photos and other graphic arts displays to simulate the actual events in London.

ABC, for its part, has been experimenting with miniature replicas of the Palace, the Abbey and other buildings along the procession route. These it plans to combine with a new system of rear-screen projection to give viewers the illusion they are actually witnessing the Coronation as it occurs.

Besides the BBC kinescopes being flown from London to Montreal, both NBC and CBS have hired planes to size-240 films taken by their own cameramen back to New York for 6 P.M. broadcasts. These films are to be processed and edited en route or before they leave London The time differential will work to the networks’ advantage, since a plane leaving London at 10 P.M British time can reach New York by noon New York time.

For NBC, Paul Mantz, a ‘hice time winner of the Bendix Trophy, will fly a souped-up P-51 from Montreal to New York, after picking up films flown there from London in British jets.

NBC also will use a Pan-American Super-Six Clipper to fly its exclusive films from London directly to New York in time to be shown at 10:30 o’clock on the night of the Coronation.

CBS is converting a British plane into a flying film laboratory.

An image from the 1953 issue:

A Queen Is Crowned - TV Guide