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rare photos

Rare Photos: Among the Crowds at Queen Elizabeth’s Wedding

How the people celebrated the big day in 1947.

Seventy years ago, when Princess Elizabeth walked down the aisle, England was in a very different state: In the years immediately after WWII, and as the country was struggling to rebuild itself, rationing measures were still in place. In fact, when her countrymen and women learned that Princess Elizabeth would have to use rationing coupons to pay for her wedding dress, they offered up their own.

The country needed an emotional boost and Picture Post was there to provide plenty of rah-rah. Picture Post was to England what LIFE magazine was to the United States: It covered the news at home and abroad primarily through pictures. For the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, on November 20 in 1947, Picture Post had photographers everywhere—in Westminster Abbey, along the route to Buckingham Palace, and in the streets where throngs of people gathered to celebrate and cheer. FOTO has pored through our archives and discovered these photos—forgotten and rarely-seen—which were not published at the time. We present them here, along with a few classics that made the pages of Picture Post.

ALL SMILES Bert Hardy/Getty Images ALL SMILES For the November 1947 feature story, titled “The ‘Crown’ Celebrates,” photographer Bert Hardy captured a series of pictures at a pub in the London neighborhood of Blackfriars. This forgotten photograph by Hardy didn’t run in the issue. DRINKS ALL ROUND Bert Hardy/Getty Images DRINKS ALL ROUND This is the photo that Picture Post ran. The caption read: “All over England on the night of the Royal Wedding, people in pubs were celebrating as people in pubs always celebrate, with a sip and a song. For ninety percent of Englishmen who feel the need to celebrate, a pub’s got nearly everything it takes; a fire, a piano, a crowd of friendly faces, and a little of what you fancy to do you good.” THE HEIR TO THE THRONE ON HER WAY TO THE ABBEY Hulton Archive/Getty Images THE HEIR TO THE THRONE ON HER WAY TO THE ABBEY The couple was married in front of 2,000 invited guests and the ceremony was recorded and broadcast to 200 million people around the world. Thousands more filled the streets to catch a glimpse of the royal pair. According to Picture Post, “It was the happiest and biggest crowd which had come together since the war.” FRONT ROW Picture Post/Getty Images FRONT ROW This picture, which didn’t run in the Picture Post wedding story, captures the multigenerational appeal of royal nuptials. ELEVATED VIEW Picture Post/Getty Images ELEVATED VIEW This rare photo shows a grey, cloudy day. The Picture Post cheekily described the weather like this: “It was of course, a highly cheerful crowd, less exuberant than those on the Victory days, but ready to laugh at anything and applaud anybody,” wrote Picture Post. “The first big cheer of the morning came for the sun, which broke from the clouds at 10:30, and retired again for good at 10:32.” AN UNEXPECTED VIEW Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images AN UNEXPECTED VIEW This photo ran in Picture Post with a caption that read, “How some of the crowd saw it.” Many used hand mirrors, shaving mirrors, powder-compacts, even periscopes to try to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. PREPARED FOR ANYTHING Picture Post/Getty Images PREPARED FOR ANYTHING Another rare photo capturing the long wait that the crowds endured. CLASSIC STYLE Picture Post/Getty Images CLASSIC STYLE This rare photo gives a sense that many in the crowd dressed-up for the big day. LITTLE FACES Picture Post/Getty Images LITTLE FACES In this rare photo, children gather, and snack, and hope to catch a glimpse of Elizabeth. QUIET MOMENT Carl Sutton/Picture Post/Getty Images QUIET MOMENT THE BOY WHO SAW THE HORSES’ HOOFS Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images THE BOY WHO SAW THE HORSES’ HOOFS In this photo, which ran in Picture Post, a a member of the Royal Air Force proved too tall to see over. This young lad got the best view he could. PRIME POSITION Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images PRIME POSITION AN APPLE A DAY Harry Deverson/Picture Post/Getty Images AN APPLE A DAY In the foreground of this rare photo, a woman takes an apple break; in the background, a mirror helps a child see over the crowds. IN GOOD HANDS Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images IN GOOD HANDS By 2 p.m. almost 2000 people had been treated by St. John ambulance brigade, and 37 had been taken to hospital. The original caption to this picture read, “The Lady Who’s Quite Overcome.” CARRIED AWAY Picture Post/Getty Images CARRIED AWAY In this forgotten photo, another woman is helped out of the frenzy. HERE COMES THE CARRIAGE Charles Hewitt/Picture Post/Getty Images HERE COMES THE CARRIAGE This photo ran in Picture Post with the following caption:“When Princess Elizabeth drove by, the crowd in its anxiety not to lose a split second of seeing her, held its breath until the coach was alongside, and then let it go in a great shout of pleasure, admiration and well-wishing for the smiling figure in white.” ENTER  THE BRIDESMAIDS Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images ENTER THE BRIDESMAIDS The great photographer Bert Hardy captured this painting-like moment for Picture Post. The Post reported that, after the ceremony, the Archbishop of York addressed the newlyweds, with these words, “Never before has a wedding been followed with such intense interest by so many, and this has not been merely passive; it has been accompanied by the heartfelt prayer and good wishes of millions, and hope that throughout your married life, you may have every happiness and joy.”

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