Foreward to the Coronation Issue

Peter Quennell and Alan Hodge provide some historical background to the coronation.

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II offers the Editors of History Today both an opportunity and a problem. the scope of the opportunity need scarcely be underlined. What better moment could be found for some account of the effect of Europe’s oldest and most firmly established monarchy upon the growth and development of the British people? At the same time, how can such an account be compressed into the pages of a single issue? Since the ceremonial aspects of the Coronation will be described and illustrated elsewhere – several full-length books have already been published: others, no doubt, are underway – we have decided to concentrate our attention on one or two outstanding features of historical background.

We have built our number around two great queens. thus, while Professor Neale discusses the difficulties that were confronted and overcome by Queen Elizabeth I when she succeeded to the throne in 1558, and Mr A. L. Rowse gives a lively picture of her actual Coronation Day, Mr M. G. Borck studies the political situation that Queen Victoria inherited at a time when the modern two-party system was still barely discernible. A consideration of Queen Victoria’s reign leads naturally to the question of the sovereign’s position in the twentieth century; and this we have chosen to illustrate by an essay on Edward VII’s influence upon British foreign policy. And, since our present sovereign counts the Kings of Scots among her ancestors, we have included an essay by Eric Linklater in which he chronicles the achievements of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Finally, Dr. Charles Seltman provides a striking appraisal of the idea of kingship, which he traces back to the genius of Alexander the Great, probably the first monarch whose personal character made him loved as well as feared – a ruler who became an imaginative symbol throughout the enormous territories over which he ruled.

Additional articles, exploring further aspects of our impressive theme, will appear in our June issue, and we hope that the sidelights we have been able to throw upon it may prove not unilluminating.