Amid preparations for the coronation, Princess Margaret informed her sister that she wished to marry Peter Townsend, a divorcé‚ 16 years Margaret’s senior, with two sons from his previous marriage. The Queen asked them to wait for a year; in the words of Martin Charteris, “the Queen was naturally sympathetic towards the Princess, but I think she thought – she hoped – given time, the affair would peter out.” Senior politicians were against the match and the Church of England did not permit remarriage after divorce. If Margaret had contracted a civil marriage, she would have been expected to renounce her right of succession. Eventually, she decided to abandon her plans with Townsend. In 1960, she married Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was created Earl of Snowdon the following year. They divorced in 1978; she did not remarry.
Despite the death of Queen Mary on 24 March, the coronation on 2 June 1953 went ahead as planned, as Mary had asked before she died. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey, with the exception of the anointing and communion, was televised for the first time. Elizabeth’s coronation gown was embroidered on her instructions with the floral emblems of Commonwealth countries. English Tudor rose; Scots thistle; Welsh leek; Irish shamrock; Australian wattle; Canadian maple leaf; New Zealand silver fern; South African protean; lotus flowers for India and Ceylon; and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton, and jute.
Elizabeth’s realms (pink) and their territories and protectorates (dark red) at the beginning of her reign. From Elizabeth’s birth onwards, the British Empire continued its transformation into the Commonwealth of Nations. By the time of her accession in 1952, her role as head of multiple independent states was already established. In 1953, the Queen and her husband embarked on a seven-month round-the-world tour, visiting 13 countries and covering more than 40,000 miles by land, sea and air. She became the first reigning monarch of Australia and New Zealand to visit those nations. During the tour, crowds were immense; three-quarters of the population of Australia were estimated to have seen her. Throughout her reign, the Queen has made hundreds of state visits to other countries and tours of the Commonwealth; she is the most widely traveled head of state.
In 1956, the British and French prime ministers, Sir Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet, discussed the possibility of France joining the Commonwealth. The proposal was never accepted and the following year France signed the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union. In November 1956, Britain and France invaded Egypt in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the Suez Canal. Lord Mountbatten claimed the Queen was opposed to the invasion, though Eden denied it. Eden resigned two months later.