Looking back at old photographs of Coronation Day in 1953, it’s easy to interpret the events we see with a nostalgic glow, to focus on the bunting and the celebrations. But dig a little deeper behind the grainy, monochrome images and you’ll find a story of dissent.
While crowds in London cheered the young Elizabeth II, there were misgivings in Farnham where controversy had arisen over who should rightfully wear the crown.
Had the true claimant been overlooked in favour of another with better connections? Or had this new monarch been justly picked as being more suited to the role?
People were split into factions and tension lingered in the air.
But before Peeps is taken to task by the town’s royalists for treasonous talk, let us explain the crown in question was not the one named for St Edward that is kept in the Tower of London.
No, the crown at the centre of this right royal dispute was the one presented to Farnham’s Coronation Queen, Dorothy Cox, at the coronation celebrations in Gostrey Meadow 70 years ago.
A photograph from that event, which showed Miss Cox making a speech following her coronation, was posted in Peeps last week – and it prompted the following letter:
“My 91-year-old mother noticed herself in the 1953 Farnham coronation picture from last week, she is the lady sitting on the left and came second (Marjorie Slingo).
“The lady sitting behind the Coronation Queen who came third, was Maureen, but unfortunately Mum cannot remember her surname.
“Sadly, Maureen had a fall in a supermarket not really that long after apparently and died from her injuries.
“There was at the time “allegedly” controversy regarding the winner, as the Coronation Queen was secretary to one of the organisers (long story short).
“There was a huge drama about it at the time, Mum recalls.
“My mother didn’t care as she didn’t want to make a speech anyway, but she did come first as Queen at Crosby Doors Company, West Street, of the same year. (We all like a bit of gossip!)
Peter Ward of Lower Weybourne Lane, Badshot Lea.”
The letter was obviously written rather tongue-in-cheek, but it highlights how major national occasions can be infused with personal memories, whether good or bad, comedic, or sad – and can be a cause of controversy as much as community cohesion.
Seven decades on, there is no way of knowing the criteria judges used in choosing Farnham’s coronation queen. But looking at the photograph we can say all the girls looked lovely in their costumes – which are most impressive considering clothes rationing had ended only four years earlier.
In particular, Marjorie and the tragic Maureen have very much the look of 1950s starlets about them. They may have been runners-up in the competition, but they were surely winners in the beauty stakes. And what a wonderful picture to look back on!