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On the day of her funeral, we remember Queen Elizabeth's coronation

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are live in London, where thousands of mourners have gathered. In just moments, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II will begin, and we will take you inside the famed Westminster Abbey. I'm joined this morning by NPR's London correspondent Frank LANGFITT, also Claudia Joseph, an author and journalist. Frank, I'm going to start with you. What can we expect from the events today?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, I think you're going to see sort of the British royalty and the monarchy sort of at its best in terms of pageantry. I mean, right now we have the queen's coffin, which has been lying in state, in Parliament, in Westminster Hall for a number of days. Tens of thousands of people have come to see it. And it is now being borne on a gun carriage by 142 naval officers making their way over to Westminster Abbey and, of course, the heart of London. This is a place that many Americans be very familiar with - Big Ben, No. 10 Downing Street and, of course, the Abbey.

MARTIN: Claudia, put this moment into perspective. It seems like almost such an insufficient question to ask you to do that because 70 years on the throne - the U.K. has never gone through this before.

CLAUDIA JOSEPH: Well, it's extraordinary, isn't it? I mean, we've had lengthy reigns before. We've had ceremonial funerals, state funerals. But if you combine the fact that it's a state funeral of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, the ceremony involved and, I think, the fact that we're seeing the queen's children in a new light - we live in a very different era. They're all very much wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They're going through the ceremonial duties, but we're seeing tears, their eyes are rimmed in red. Prince Charles looks grief stricken, as does Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. There's a lot of warmth towards them, I think, because they are so obviously grieving.

MARTIN: And King Charles, of course, gave that national address after his mother passed. And it was noted that he was emotional as he introduced himself as king.

JOSEPH: Well, I noticed that all the queen's children have been making very personal statements. They're not just talking about her sense of duty and her religion, but they're talking about what she meant to them and as are grandchildren.

MARTIN: We've met so many people who are reflecting on their own personal connection to the queen, and it cuts across generations. We've talked with elderly people but also younger generations of Brits who feel a connection. But it is interesting to hear the voices of people who are old enough to have remembered when Elizabeth was coronated. And we have collected some of those voices and those reflections. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: On what must surely be the greatest day of her life, Queen Elizabeth drives to her coronation.

AVRIL SHATTUCK: I'm Avril Shattuck (ph), and I'm 75. We were the only people in our street to have a TV, and my parents invited all the street to come in to watch her coronation. And my mother hardly watched the coronation because she was too busy making sandwiches for everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Imagine, if you can, our young queen's feelings, as she's slowly borne towards the hourslong ceremony consecrating her as queen of all the nations and all the races over which she holds sovereignty.

SHATTUCK: It was just lovely to see her walk down with this golden dress and this fantastic cloak behind her. Then there's me. I think I once tried to copy what she did as a child. My mother had a wedding - her wedding dress, and I used to get in it and march up and down in it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, CHEERING)

CLIVE BENDER: Clive Bender (ph), 78 years old. I was 8 years old when the king died.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: The passing of King George VI came as a sudden and most grievous shock to his people all over the world.

BENDER: We all had to wear a black armband on our school blazer.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BENDER: Well, he died in February, the king, and the coronation was in June. I can remember the procession. The one thing that everybody remembers is Queen Salote of Tonga, which is in the Pacific Ocean. And it was pouring, the rain. She was in an open-top carriage on her own. And she wouldn't put an umbrella up, so everybody could see her.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BENDER: We do put on a good show in this country of pageantry. It's the way we do things here.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARBARA STONE: My name's Barbara Stone (ph), 92. My husband and I, we just got engaged. And we're walking up Regent Street, and we saw the Union Jacks at half-mast. And we went into a jewelers, and they said that the king had just died.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STONE: My father rented a television set, and we invited the neighbors in, and we watched the queen on this television.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Now the archbishop moves to the theater for the ceremony of recognition.

GEOFFREY FISHER: I here present unto you, Queen Elizabeth, your undoubted queen.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: God save Queen Elizabeth.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STONE: She had a very tiny waist and this beautiful dress and with all the different flowers from all the different nations that she was in control of. It looked very beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Prince Charles and Princess Anne watched enthralled as the troops swung down the Mall around the Victoria Memorial.

STONE: I think she was extremely good. I mean, it's going to be a completely different world now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: And so this day of days most memorable comes to an end, and with it begins a new era, the new Elizabethan age.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: A reminder there of how much this queen, Elizabeth II, meant to people, especially the older generation who remember when she was coronated. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.