Another king, another front page. For the fifth time in its history, La Presse will cover the coronation of a British monarch this Saturday. If we rely on our archives, the tone and form have changed a lot over the years. But basically, basically, not that much…
When your favorite newspaper was founded in 1884, Queen Victoria was still on the throne. It was not until the end of his (interminable) reign, in 1901, that La Presse could cover a first coronation, in this case that of Edward VII, on Saturday August 9, 1902.
The technical means are then limited. No one is live tweeting. There is no real-time chat. The phone doesn’t even exist! The dispatches from London, probably sent by telegraph (the internet of time!), will nevertheless be published the same day, in the evening edition, albeit on the very last page, perhaps because of their time. late arrival.
From the outset, a local feather evokes the Montreal side of the festivities. No “remarkable demonstration” was organized in town, the author notes. Nevertheless, the citizens “spared nothing to give the city a gay [sic] air”, “flying everywhere the British flag and royal colors”. A scene that we would certainly not see today…
The rest of the article, made up of agency texts, gives details of the London ceremony, where the sovereign was crowned “at 12.21 pm sharp”. The whole thing is accompanied by a close-up sketch of the main person concerned.
We understand, in the last half of the text, that the king suffers from a “condition” and that his health problems, inflated by “sinister rumors”, could jeopardize this “grandiose” day, or even his reign altogether. But we learn with HUGE relief, in the following Monday’s newspaper, that the new sovereign bore the “fatigues of the day” very well and that it was in the end a “wonderful spectacle”.
Nine years later, we do it again for the coronation of George V. On Thursday, June 22, 1911, La Presse devotes half of its front page to the royal event, while the other half is occupied by an equally historic happening: the first public ascent of the La Presse balloon, at the Hochelaga gasworks!
This time, the drawing published does not represent the sovereign alone, but in the company of his wife Mary “as they appeared this morning in their pompous costumes”.
The article (a “special dispatch to the PRESS”, it is specified) returns to the ceremony at Westminster Cathedral, emphasizing in passing the presence of the Canadian Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier, among the guests from the ” settlements” (!). Interesting: the newspaper publishes for the first time the route of the royal procession scheduled for the next day.
For local flavor, you have to wait for the next day’s number. In particular, we will learn that the “Mounted Police of the Canadian Northwest” were part of the procession in London and that the coronation was “an occasion of rejoicing in Toronto, Hamilton, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Brockville and Sherbrooke”. . Montreal? Quebec? No mention.
Fast forward 26 years. After the death of George V, then the rapid abdication of Edward VIII, George VI was crowned on May 12, 1937. La Presse offered the same day a “complete narration” of the ceremony under the signature of a certain Jean-François Pouliot, “special envoy” to London, whose text was sent by “cablegram”. For the first time, it is a photo of the royal couple – and not a drawing – which accompanies the article, while the front page is entirely devoted to the event. Along with the must-read account of this “unforgettable” day and reminiscing of distant celebrations in the rest of the “British Empire”, a complete capsule is reserved for Queen Mother Mary’s wardrobe and diamonds, leaving already glimpse a “pipolisation” of the royal subject.
Finally, on June 2, 1953, it was Elizabeth II’s turn. This one appears in a photo in her carriage, waving her hand as she would millions of times for the next 60 years, next to a snapshot of Winston Churchill. Part of the front page is obviously devoted to the coronation, with its ritual and splendor. But there is also broad emphasis on the divine character of royalty, quoting extensively from Cardinal Léger, who has just given his own “coronation mass” at the basilica in Montreal.
An effort of originality, this time, was put on the title. It reads “Millions cheer Elizabeth” (the spelling then favored), the event having been televised for the very first time. Light years away from the 1902 title, which brandished “God save Our noble king”, in English in the text. Clear francization in 1911, with “God save the king”, then in 1937, with “God save the king and the queen”, spectacular feminist concession. Note that with the coronation of Elizabeth II 16 years later, the word queen does not appear in the title, as if she was already part of the family.
What will your Press headline this Saturday? What tone will be used? What space will be dedicated to the event? The answer on the day said. Hoping that the journalists of tomorrow will not hold it against us. Each era has its quirks. God bless the colonies.