LITTLE CURRENT—One of Manitoulin artist Ivan Wheale’s oil paintings hangs in Queen Elizabeth II’s legendary art collection, but his interaction with the Queen goes back long before he became a famed artist. Mr. Wheale, who grew up in London, England, was a member of the honour guard standing in ranks on the way to Westminster Abbey during the Queen’s coronation ceremonies on June 2, 1953.
“At one point I was only about 100 feet away,” he recalled. “It was all pomp and circumstance. The Horse Guards were there along with the army, navy and air force. We were there in alternating ranks and I was in the Royal Air Force at the time.”
In the leadup to the coronation, Mr. Wheale and his fellow air force personnel were drilled repeatedly until they had every move down pat. “We used to do the drills in Hyde Park,” he said. “We drilled until we did everything automatically. It takes quite a bit of practice to get it all right.”
In the end, much of what they did involved standing perfectly still. “We looked straight ahead at attention,” he said. “We had American rifles and American white webbing. We had bayonets on our rifles, and we were supposed to hold the crowds back.”
But that was much easier said than done. “Once the Queen had passed, well we couldn’t hold them back,” he said. “One little old lady was caught on the end of my bayonet. It had gone through her coat. It took two police officers who came along to lift her off. She apologized. It was really very strange.”
“I made a lot of good friends during that time,” said Mr. Wheale. “It was one of the most exciting things I have had in my whole life.” Sadly, the young air force member missed out on an important memento of the occasion.
“We were all supposed to get medals,” he said, “but they ran out, so I never did get one. That would have been nice to have.”
“It is quite an emotional moment for me,” Mr. Wheale said of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
The artist said he has a good feeling about the ascension of Charles III to the throne. “I think he is a good man,” he said, referencing Charles III’s charity work and support of his mother during her reign. “He has done a lot of good things and has been preparing for this his whole life. I think he will do well.”