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Breakfast with Frost
Sir David with Lady Jane Rayne & Peter Dimmock
Sir David with Lady Jane Rayne & Peter Dimmock
Interview with Lady Jane Rayne, Maid of Honour & Peter Dimmock on Sunday 01 June 2003.

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Well, half a century ago the nation huddled round its television sets to watch the coronation of the Queen.


Many people had bought their televisions specially for the occasion to see for the first time the pomp and the circumstance. Among the hundreds of people who took part, one woman who had a key role is here, Jane Vane Tempest Stewart, now Lady Jane Rayne, was one of the six maids of honour. She walked to the Queen's left bearing her train and she's here today to talk about her memories of that day.

And we say welcome to Jane. And we say welcome to this gentleman, Peter, because nobody would have been able to watch the coronation at all had it not been for the work of this man, Peter Dimmock.

As a senior BBC executive at the time, he first persuaded a reluctant Palace to allow the ceremony to be broadcast live, then proceeded to organise the coverage of the event in what proved to be in many ways a turning point for British television as well as the British monarchy. Peter welcome.

PETER DIMMOCK: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: Delighted to have you both with us. Jane, welcome.

LADY JANE: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: And here, this, this is what you wore.

LADY JANE: This is what I wore. And before you ask me, I - can I tell you that I can still get into it. With great difficulty I might say, but after 50 years and four children it was bound to be a bit of a squeeze.

DAVID FROST: Yes. That's a great achievement. How many fittings did you have to have for something like that?

LADY JANE: I can't remember exactly but I think sort of between eight and ten, probably. There seemed to be an awful lot of them, I know that.

DAVID FROST: How, how were you picked, do you think? Why were you picked, how were you picked and how did you find out that you'd been picked?

LADY JANE: Well I'd received this wonderful letter asking me if I would like - as if one was going to say no! I can't imagine anyone refusing such a wonderful invitation. As to why, I have no idea. I've been asked this before and I even asked my cousin, who was the deputy master of the household - the royal household - and he didn't know. And we, I just assume it was because we were the right age - these six girls, we ranged between 19 and 23, I think. The same too in the height, you know we graduated.

DAVID FROST: Oh you said matching sizes was part of it.

LADY JANE: Matching sizes - I'm sure that had something to do with it - and the fact that we had certain connections with the royal family - my parents had been friends with George VI and the Queen Mother - and, I don't know, truly don't know - I've never been given a straight answer on that.

DAVID FROST: Did you have a lot of rehearsals?

LADY JANE: Endless rehearsals. I simply cannot remember how many but I'm sure Peter will know the answer to that one. They, there really were a lot of them and the Queen never came to any. She was absolutely perfect on the day, faultless - how? I don't know. I think she must have paced it out at home or something. She never made a mistake.

DAVID FROST: And were you nervous? You must have been. Nervous the night before, nervous when you went to bed?

LADY JANE: Very nervous the night before and very nervous when I arrived at the Abbey but once I got into the procession and it moved off and I had this wonderfully reassuring wink from my father, who was on the left as I went up in the, amongst the peers - I knew where he was sitting because he'd given me his seat number - so I looked out of the corner of my eye and there he was and when he winked at me I felt very reassured.

DAVID FROST: And you'd also had sustenance on the journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.

LADY JANE: We had fistfuls of Mackintosh toffees supplied by the delightful Lord Tryon, chief of the Privy Purse. Here was this beautiful, heavily embroidered, velvet embossed with gold, purse, part of the royal regalia, and - to my astonishment - he put his hand in and out came all these toffees. And I had said just prior to that, I'm so hungry I'd give anything for a sweet.

DAVID FROST: And one of your fellow maids nearly fainted.

LADY JANE: Yes she did. Anne Glen Connor - Anne Cooke as she was then - but mercifully it was while we were standing against the wall. She was behind me, I felt this slight rustling and she whipped out her smelling salts - we all had smelling salts in our gloves.

DAVID FROST: You were all given smelling salts, just for this?

LADY JANE: Just for that. In case that arose. And thank God it didn't in my case but poor Anne. But anyway, she covered it up beautifully and nobody knew.

DAVID FROST: And what was the most sort of moving memory you have?

LADY JANE: Well the two most moving moments of the day were - one in the Abbey, one outside the Abbey. The one in the Abbey was during the anointing when the Queen, this little slender, young girl of 27, wearing just a simple shift - nothing else - she looked so vulnerable and defenceless in a way, and so serene and dignified, that that really was very, very moving. And of course the other thing was standing on the balcony watching the fly past. But more interesting than the fly past was seeing these people - I mean the outpouring of love and affection for the Queen, it really was the dawn of a new age, I think, for them. A new Elizabethan age, if you like. The Queen, sort of we'd had all this austerity since the war, the war and then there had been rationing up until quite recently, and suddenly here was this marvellous event, this beautiful young queen, and people just went mad. All down the Mall, to the left and right, it was incredible.

DAVID FROST: Yes, people went mad, and of course people went mad in terms of the numbers of people who watched it on television - it was easily a record audience, wasn't it Peter?

PETER DIMMOCK: Yes, the first time more people watched on television than listened on radio. Twenty-two million on television and ten million on radio.

DAVID FROST: That doesn't leave an awful lot left very few down at the pub, at least during the ceremony. Now the vital thing you had to do first of all was, there was agreement that the thing would be televised, probably, in some form, but you had to get it more wide ranging.

PETER DIMMOCK: Well what happened was that after we'd televised King George VI's funeral from Windsor, Seymour Deleuinier, who was head of television outside broadcast, and I immediately thought well the coronation is going to be the greatest event and will help, we thought, to put television on the map, because television was very much a poor relation to radio then. But in October '52, if I may read it to you, our hopes were dashed because we received this - the director general, Ian Jacobs, showed us this letter. It was from Lord Walton's secretary, Mr Duke - Lord Walton was president of the Privy Council but he was ill, "the position is the Queen has decided that television from within the Abbey should be restricted to the procession west of the choir screen and it was thought the interests of television viewers would well be met if the film which will be taken should be shown on television later in the day." Well that was rather like being allowed to do a race and not see the finish.

DAVID FROST: Absolutely. And so how long, you got the newspapers ...

PETER DIMMOCK: Well there were two stages really. The first stage was that obviously we lobbied everybody and then they did agree that we could put in one camera and show the earl marshal and the archbishop and the Queen's press secretary what it would look like on the screen if we were allowed to cover the alter area and the theatre, as it was called. And they saw that and then we were on tenterhooks for about ten days until we got a telephone call, "yes you may come." But then the real problems started because they changed the route, quite near the coronation as well, they lengthened it. We'd only got 21 outside broadcast cameras, five of them I wanted in the Abbey, and then it was a question of could we at that stage get the camera positions I wanted. And so the Duke of Norfolk agreed that provided we brought, we smuggled the cameras in over night, we could do a test and show him and the archbishop what the cameras would see from the positions I wanted. And we had this test, all went very well at lunchtime, in fact the archbishop said to me "I always thought television cameras were like newsreel, they made a noise. I always thought they were very obtrusive," he said, "I can't see them, they're beautifully hidden." He said, "Well you've got five, would you like six?" Whereupon the Ministry of Works chimed in and said "Oh archbishop please no, finding the five positions Mr Dimmock wants is difficult enough."

DAVID FROST: And in fact it was the start of a whole new era in terms of television coverage of the royal family, wasn't it?

PETER DIMMOCK: Yes it was. I think, I think it was the first time, perhaps, the general public had begun to be closer to the royal family. I mean I'm a fervent believer in the monarchy and a head of state that is at arms length, as it were, from the political leadership of the country, but this was the first time I think they felt close to their new Queen. Do you agree with that?

DAVID FROST: That was true. And the spirit today is, well we saw affection coming out, but things have changed a bit compared to that level of outpouring of love, but it's still there do you think?

LADY JANE: I think there is still a great deal of outpouring of love, certainly for the Queen, above all. And, and also for the royal family, I think.

PETER DIMMOCK: Well I think there's a great love of pageantry too. A friend of mine in Switzerland, who is 80 years old and a great anglophile, the one thing he wants to do before he dies is to see on the Queen's birthday, Trooping the Colour. Now I think that's very symptomatic of all our royal events. We have a great worldwide reputation.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you both so much, a joy to have you with us recalling those great events that are officially commemorated tomorrow.

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