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History ian 6/5/2013

Noel CowardWhen Her Majesty was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 Australia’s Prime Minister was Sir Robert Menzies, Sir Winston Churchill had that job in the UK and Dwight Eisenhower was President of the USA. Julia Gillard, David Cameron and Barack Obama were yet to be born. How things have changed... and one example is the political incorrectness attributed to Noel Coward on the wet and windy day of the coronation.

To set the scene… the rather large Queen Salote of Tonga was part of the procession of Heads of State. She won their hearts of the English people when she insisted on riding in an open carriage through the chilly London drizzle, smiling and waving as though it were a sunny summer’s day.

Salote was splattered with rain but, steeped in Tongan royal custom, she endured the discomfort to show humility and deference to the higher ranked British Queen. Seated opposite Salote in the carriage was a shivering Malay sultan, his gold turban, tunic and pants soaked. “Cold. Get wet, Close roof?” he pleaded. “I was naughty,” Salote later confided to a senior British civil servant. “ ‘No understand. No speak English,’ I replied”.

Noel Coward, however, is the one remembered for the incident when Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, asked Coward who the little man with Queen Salote was, to which he replied, “Her lunch.”

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