By Alan Bickley
I am not old enough to remember the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. But I know people who do remember it, and I have read enough about it. That coronation was attended by much hot air in the media about national renewal and the beginning of a second Elizabethan age. In fact, it occurred fourteen years into a national collapse that it was becoming impossible to hide. The leading power outside the Soviet sphere of influence was the United States. The Empire was falling apart. The British State was heavily in debt, and the post-War economic recovery was running out of steam – creeping inflation, loss of competitiveness, poor industrial relations, and all the rest. Even so, Britain was easily the leading second class power. We were still the only power of note in much of the world. We were dominant in various critical industries. Our people were well-educated and industrious and broadly united and happy. We were more than reasonably free. Our future was open. If our long imperial adventure was coming to an end, it was inconceivable that we would not remain at the front in terms of scientific and technological development. Indeed, assuming a speedy end to the Cold War, and an American return to isolation, we could look forward to a stabilised position as the centre of a vast trading and military alliance, with British bases by 2000 on the Moon and Mars. The 1953 Coronation was a reminder of a glorious past and a statement of belief in a no less glorious future.