Memories of Queen’s coronation close to home

Longtime Oak Bay residents, and loyalists to the Queen, Betty and Ralph White recall Her Majesty’s accession to the throne 60 years ago

Betty and Ralph White with a souvenir program from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Betty and Ralph White with a souvenir program from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Betty White rustles through a green plastic bag. She carefully pulls out memorabilia from Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation 60 years ago.

Documents of the Queen’s crowning, including an invitation, menu and program guide – all of which once belonged to Betty’s aunt Annie Keating – soon cover the top of the wooden coffee table.

Over the years, Betty has collected various books and magazines relating to the Royal family, but none of the documents are as special as the ones her aunt once held.

“(My nieces) were going to throw it out and just burn it,” Betty said, adding that she came across the papers again while recently cleaning the house.

Queen Elizabeth II began her reign in February 1952, after the death of her father King George VI.

Betty’s aunt Annie was a housekeeper for a “big industrial family” in Glasgow, Scotland at the time. She received an invitation to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, which took place June 2, 1953, through the family she was working for.

Annie was an “old-fashioned matron” who never married. She and her English friends would get together and wear hats like the Queen’s, Betty recalled.

Annie’s loyalty to the Queen is reflected in Betty.

Betty, 72, remembers getting goosebumps while watching the Queen’s coronation on TV when she was 12 years old.

“We lived in a village (in Scotland) of maybe 200 houses and one TV,” Betty said. “We all crowded at this house to see the coronation on TV, and the TV was 13 (inches) by 13.”

Very few TVs were available back then, adds Betty’s husband, Ralph White, who is also a fan of the Queen.

“One of the big furniture stores, which were selling TVs, they invited people to come… and there was hundreds of people in the big store watching little TVs,” Ralph, 74, said.

A self-professed history buff, Betty said she loves anything relating to the history of Scotland and England.

The fact that Betty has had her aunt’s documents for so many years is what keeps her interested in the Royals, Ralph said.

For Betty, the Queen is a woman to look up to.

“She’s done so much for the world. … You look at her as though (she were) a great big aunt,” Betty said.

“I think the biggest part (of her coronation) was her just accepting the crown, and then coming out with all the robes and everything on.”

The Queen’s ability to not allow family turmoil to get in the way of her duties is what the Whites respect

about her.

“(I admire) the way she’s handled herself, as far as all the muck that her family’s been through,” Betty said.

“She’s above all that (drama),” Ralph added.

“She’s kept herself separate from the whole thing and she still gets on with the job.”