Queen Elizabeth II – Her coronation and first visit to New Zealand in 1953

New Zealanders celebrated two royal events in 1953. In the middle of the year, their new monarch Elizabeth II was crowned; six months later she came to Aotearoa New Zealand in person.

A royal year

Many souvenirs were made to mark these happy occasions, some were unique and hand-made, others were mass-produced, but all were mementos of the beginning of what was called ‘the new Elizabethan age’.


In June, Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Pakistan, and became the Head of the Commonwealth.

The coronation on 2 June was especially memorable for New Zealanders, as it coincided with news of Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenza Norgay reaching the summit of Mt Everest. The Acting Prime Minster of New Zealand described the conquest as ‘a most fitting gift for her Majesty’s Coronation’.

Touring New Zealand

At the end of December 1953, Queen Elizabeth arrived in New Zealand. She and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, stayed for almost six weeks, travelling through Aotearoa New Zealand as part of a six-month tour of the Commonwealth.

Their itinerary took the couple to 46 towns and cities. This was the first time a reigning monarch of New Zealand had visited – the previous five royal visits had been made by brothers or sons of monarchs.

Crowds flocked to see them. It is estimated that almost three out of every four New Zealanders turned out to catch a glimpse of their new Queen.

This photograph shows spectators watching Queen Elizabeth II’s cavalcade driving through the Basin Reserve in Wellington. It was taken on the last day of the Queen’s stay in the capital, before she and the Duke of Edinburgh flew to the South Island. Queen's visit, December 1953-January 1954 ..., 16 January 1954, by Leslie Adkin. Te Papa (A.008487)

Royal visit badge, maker unknown, about 1953. Gift of the Guard family, 1993. Te Papa (GH004728)

This bottle top is from a collection of about 250 bottle tops collated by Toby Stevenson when he was aged 7–11 years old, between 1965–1969. Toby recalls his interest was sparked by two Queen Elizabeth II coronation bottle tops that had been kept by his grandmother. She gave them to him and he proceeded to collect bottle tops wherever he could. Bottle top, about 1954, maker unknown. Gift of Toby Stevenson, 2011. Te Papa (GH021674/1)

This scrapbook was compiled by 10-year-old Cathryn Riley for the Royal Tour of Queen Elizabeth II to New Zealand in 1953-54. Cathryn was invited to see the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at a special Children's Function at Athletic Park on 12 January 1954. She kept this detailed scrapbook with tickets, newspaper cuttings and other ephemera from the Royal Visit.

Scrapbook, 'The Coronation Royal Visit', Cathryn Riley; compiler; 1953-1954; New Zealand. Gift of Cathryn Riley, 2014. Te Papa (GH024283)

This badge was created to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to New Zealand in 1953-54, and was worn by a young boy who saw her on tour in Devonport, Auckland. Royal Tour badge, 1953, New Zealand, maker unknown. Gift of Tony Mackle, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (GH021362)

Imperial links

At the time, the tour celebrated and confirmed the ongoing importance of British culture and tradition to New Zealanders. People waved Union Jacks, not the New Zealand flag. Red, white, and blue floral displays were the order of the day.