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Columbia woman remembers seeing Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation


On the wall of Nancy Cleaveland's dining room hangs a portrait of her at 16 years old. 

Two years before that painting was made, a then Princess Elizabeth at age 27 would become Queen of England. One way to witness history is to live through it.

"What happened is my wonderful grandfather, and he handed me an envelope and he says, 'I thought maybe you and your grandmother would like to go to London for the coronation of the queen,'" Columbia resident Cleaveland remembered.

She witnessed history firsthand. That trip to England would be on the cruise ship, the Queen Mary.   

"So i mean if they had it, so dressed up and everybody up where we were, they'd all I think, at least everybody I would have in the high teas and stuff up there were going for the coronation," she said. 

From the famous cruise ship to the streets of London, for a girl from Missouri, everything was a memory she cherishes.

"And of course, we were there at such a happy time because every store you went into every person you saw on the streets, they were so excited and so happy and made you feel so very welcome," Cleaveland said.

When it finally came time for the queen to make her way through the streets of London in that horse-drawn carriage? 

"When the coach came, it was kind of a cloudy day," Cleaveland remembered. "And that coordination coach. I've never in all my years and I've done a lot and been in a lot of places now in 84 years. But it felt it was so illuminated just, you just have to see it." 

On Monday as the queen was laid to rest at Windsor castle, Cleaveland retold her experience to those who gathered at Westminster College in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. 

Now as she collects mementos that represent the queen, Cleveland understands how lucky she was to witness a moment a majority of us only see on film.

"It was a wonderful experience and just being able to say, I saw this happen," Cleaveland said.

Now that the next page in England's history has turned, Cleaveland will always remember Queen Elizabeth as many of her subjects will remember her.

"She was the most charming, young girl, queen mother, all the things she went through all her life," Cleveland said. "She was just that remarkable."

Cleaveland said she vividly remembers seeing the queen in her gown through the carriage's glass door. A miniature replica of that carriage is on display at the Churchill Museum in Fulton.

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Chris Bryant

Chris joined ABC17 in April of 2021 as Chief Photographer.
A multi-award-winning photographer whose career has spanned over 20 years in broadcasting from television and radio and included over 60 individual awards for photography, reporting, and editing.
Chris has covered stories from hurricanes to the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Royals’ two World Series runs and stories from Florida to Utah and Arizona.
Chris is married and a father of four.


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