The Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen on 2 June 1953 was probably the greatest spectacle in 20th century Britain. For the first time it was filmed and televised and thus the pomp and ceremony, the ancient religious rituals surrounding the crowning of the monarch, were seen all round the world. At least half a million people braved the coldest, wettest June day in recorded history to line the route of the Coronation procession while over 30,000 troops from every part of the Commonwealth were on parade.
The event was commemorated by a set of four British stamps (also overprinted for use in overseas postal agencies in Morocco and the Gulf) while the colonies and protectorates contributed a single stamp each to an omnibus series and the independent dominions (with the exception of India and Pakistan) also took part.
Today the world is very different and the old British Empire is represented by a handful of far-flung dependent territories, but sentiment for the Queen ensures that stamps with a royal theme continue to be immensely popular. Hard on the heels of last year's Golden Jubilee marathon comes the series marking the 50th anniversary of the Coronation.
Royal Mail is releasing a block of 10 first class stamps, five o which show in full colour the splendour of the Coronation itself and the processions before and after the event, but these are contrasted with black and white photographs of street parties and other celebrations, with special emphasis on the kids, most of whom are now senior citizens. These are the first living non-royals to be featured on British stamps, a major break with a tradition that has lasted since 1840.