MEMORIES of the Queen’s Coronation could not be more vivid for the Duke of Devonshire - who stood feet away as a page boy.
Then just nine he was officially three years too young for the role. But his grandmother Mary Cavendish, the Queen’s Mistress of the Robe, persuaded organisers ‘rules could be broken’.
The Duke, now 68, told The Star he remembers a ‘very exciting’ and ‘thrilling’ occasion, being driven to Westminster Abbey in a horsedrawn carriage before carrying the train of his grandmother’s robes.
But the long service proved a challenge for the youngster who, although fed energy-boosting chocolate Ovaltine sweets, was filmed yawning.
The Duke recalled: “We practised for days but it meant time off school so I liked it. There was some skill involved - in part of the ceremony my grandmother had to go backwards and I was holding her train. We had to go at the same speed or she might have tripped. It was best not to get it wrong.”
He added: “As a nine-year-old, I didn’t have much historical perspective on what was going on but it was very exciting and thrilling.”
He and his parents experienced hiccups travelling to the service, firstly when their driver got lost. “We went from my parents’ West End house and it was interesting looking out of the window,” he said. “But the coachman was from Derbyshire and didn’t know London well. My father realised we were lost.
The coach arrived on time but then another problem occurred.
“The scabbard of my sword became tangled in my father’s robes, tearing the lining. But everything was so well-organised that immediately there were people with needles and thread.”
The Coronation in 1953 is the Duke’s first recollection of the Queen, although she stayed with his parents before they became Duke and Duchess in 1950. At the time he was only three, and there are photographs of him with Princess Elizabeth.
The Queen has returned to Chatsworth ‘half a dozen times’ since, though not in the years that Peregrine has been Duke.
“I hope she will come one day,” he said.
Paying tribute to the Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, the Duke added: “What’s amazing is not that she’s been monarch for 60 years but the way she has done it.
“She is so unselfish on the country’s behalf.”