Although Churchill had been appointed a Knight of the Garter in April 1953, in time for the Coronation of the young queen, he was fact invested – or ‘installed ‘ – as a Knight the following year.
On Monday 14 June 1954, at 3.00 pm, a young boy – Allan Ledger – was present, as a chorister, in the Queen’s Free Chapel of St. George, Windsor Castle, at the Installation Service of the Most Noble Order of The Garter of the Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. Over sixty years later, and fifty years after Churchill’s death, Allan Ledger, who also sang as a chorister at the Coronation, has written his account of that event for Churchill Central:
‘At 2.30 pm Sir Winston Churchill led in all fifteen non-royal Knights of the Garter. These included Earl Alexander of Tunis, the Duke of Wellington and Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, much to the delight of we choristers. They were followed by members of the Royal House of Windsor, including the late Queen Mother. After them came the Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend Eric Hamilton, a man much admired and respected by us choristers. He was followed by Our Sovereign and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. After them came the Military Knights of Windsor, whose spurs jangled as they processed into the choir. They were followed by the Yeoman of the Guard, who beat their ceremonial rods on the ground as they processed into the Choir of the Chapel. Then came our cross bearer followed by the choir. One of the other choristers was Nicholas Hare, whose father was a minor canon of St. George’s Chapel and who had a most angelic voice.
Before The Sovereign entered Her Chapel of St. George, a fanfare of trumpets was sounded at the West Door and as we processed up the Nave our choirmaster, Dr. William Harris, known to us choir boys as Doc. H., played a voluntary on the organ.
Sir Winston Churchill stood on the south side (cantoris) straight in front of me in the choir stall. The top of his head was on exactly the same level as mine. Both of us could clearly see our young and beautiful Queen Elizabeth sitting in the Dean’s stall, wearing her gorgeous garter robes with the ostrich hat. Her Majesty’s page boy had assisted her, as she ascended up the steps into the stall to ensure her long train did not become entangled.
Sir Winston Churchill stood stock still as Her Majesty read out ‘It is our pleasure that the Knight Companion be installed’. The choir then sang Psalm 46 – ‘God is our Hope and Strength’. After the lesson was read, the choir sang an anthem composed by Dr Harris. This was followed by the ‘Te Deum Laudamus’ by Ernest John Moeran. As Her Majesty left and re-entered the Nave a fanfare of trumpets sounded out once more and all those present bowed or curtsied as Her Majesty moved towards the West door.
After the Royals had gone, we choir boys made our way back to school and were happy to let off steam on the playground in a game called ‘kick-the-can’, also known in a certain royal circle as ‘kick-a-tin’.
Allan Ledger, January 2015
St. George’s School, Windsor Castle 1952–57
(author of A Spencer Love Affair, Foreword by the late Duke of Marlborough, His Grace John Spencer-Churchill)
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