An Ex-chorister Remembers An earlier Royal Wedding

Last month’s celebration of Her Majesty’s 70 year-long marriage to Prince Philip prompted one of the boys who sang on that happy occasion to cast his mind back to that day in 1947.

Robert Turner, a chorister at Westminster Abbey and a pupil at Westminster Abbey Choir School, recalls: “We gargled with salt water for the last time, ran round Dean’s Yard before breakfast and processed to the Song School for 9.30.

An hour’s practice with the Chapel Royal was enough even for that perfectionist, Dr William McKie. His nerves probably couldn’t stand more. By 11 0’clock we were in our places at the West Door of the Abbey, slightly irritated by over-starched ruffs, awaiting the Bride and her father, The King.

The worst part of the Service was the loss of our Quire stalls to the huge number of ‘foreign royals’. We were banished to the organ loft, where we could not sing properly in the cramped conditions. Cross BBC sound engineers objected even to the noise of us turning over the pages of our scores.

The music wasn’t surprising – The Old Hundred and Wesley’s Blessed by the God and Father. But it was off set by McKie’s beautiful motet We wait for thy loving Kindness and a last minute addition of the Scottish metrical version of Psalm 23. The Crimond descant had never been heard south of the Border and took us Top of the Pops overnight.

A second procession led out the happy Bride and Groom. We discarded our cassocks as quickly as possible and sprinted to the West Front of the Abbey to see the British and Foreign Royals depart in their coaches. At last the rain stopped and the sun shone.

Lunch and tea got rolled into one that day. We had our own wedding cake, even though rationing was still with us, provided by a member of the congregation. He just happened to be Colonel of the Army Catering Corps and had a regular supply of such goodies. His name? Field Marshal Montgomery.”

Robert has enjoyed a hugely successful legal career including his appointment as Senior Master of The Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court and as the Queen’s Remembrancer from 1996-2007. The latter, created in 1154 by Henry II, is the oldest ancient judicial post in continual existence.