London; To the casual observer, she makes it look easy. As with so much in the line of royalty, the reality is a little different. The Queen has given a rare glimpse into the perilous business of wearing a crown, which she describes as so heavy she must keep her head lifted for fear of breaking her neck. Elizabeth II, who is to discuss her memories of her coronation in a BBC documentary, describes the Imperial State Crown as “very unwieldy”. The crown, which she wore at the Coronation and for most State Openings of Parliament since, was adapted following the death of her father. “You see, it’s much smaller isn’t it,” the Queen says, gesturing to the height of the crown’s arches in one scene to be broadcast on Sunday. “You know, it would have been up to about there when my father wore it.” Alastair Bruce, an expert on the Crown Jewels, replies: “I mean, it was huge then.” The Queen agrees: “Yes, very unwieldy.” “It’s difficult to always remember that diamonds are stones and so they’re very heavy,” says Bruce. The Queen responds: “Yes. Fortunately my father and I have about the same sort of shaped head. But once you put it on it stays. I mean, it just remains on.” A discreet alteration to the crown saw its arches lowered to create a smaller, more feminine object for the Queen, who was 27 at the time. “You have to keep your head very still,” Bruce remarks, as the pair watch footage of the 1953 ceremony.
“Yes,” the Queen agrees. “And you can’t look down to read the speech — you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break, it would fall off.”
The programme also sees the Queen, who celebrates the 65th anniversary of her coronation this year, speak of her “mischievous” children, a lost sceptre and a dress so heavy she stuck to the carpet. Bruce said the programme shows the Queen’s “most delightful sense of humour”, as she responds to his comments with twinkling eyes and deadpan delivery. On a “horrible” carriage ride from Westminster Abbey to the palace in a “not very comfortable” Gold State Coach designed only for short journeys, Bruce asks: “Were you in it for a long time though?” “Half way around London,” the Queen replies, drily. The hour-long programme is part of the Royal Collection series and includes the Queen’s personal footage showing “a more informal mood behind the scenes”. A maid of honour is seen tripping, while the Queen giggles, and a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne play underneath her robe. “Such fun for the children,” Bruce remarks. “Not what they’re meant to do,” the Queen notes. Examining the Black Prince’s Ruby in the Imperial State Crown, she describes a small hole where Henry V is said to have worn his feather plume during Agincourt in 1415. “It’s fun to see I think,” she says. “Well, the idea that his plume was put into the stone. On his helmet. Bit rash, but that was the sort of thing they did I suppose in those days.” Handling the crown, the Queen points to some pearls and says: “Most pearls like to be sort of living creatures... so they don’t look very happy.” Bruce replies: “Quite dead.” Laughing, the Queen says: “I’m afraid so.” The Coronation is to be broadcast on BBC One at 8pm on Sunday.