Mystery of the missing coronation loo rolls

The crowning of a monarch is planned to the minutest detail. But when it came to the coronation of Elizabeth II, it seems civil servants failed to allow for lavatory-paper pilfering.

The crowning of a monarch is planned to the minutest detail. But when it came to the coronation of Elizabeth II, it seems civil servants failed to allow for lavatory-paper pilfering.

Documents released yesterday at the National Archives reveal that organisers of the coronation in 1953 were caught out when the tissue laid out for dignitaries in 84 lavatories at Westminster Abbey vanished overnight.

An official report into the state occasion called for tighter security at future events. Noting that the lavatory blocks had been provided with a roll holder, mirrors and floor lino, it stated: "It was found, early on Coronation Day, that much of the lavatory paper had been removed. In future it will be necessary to take special steps to prevent this."

The coronation was not the first time that the Ministry of Works had been found wanting on its royal water closet provision.

A similar report into the crowning of George VI in 1937 detailed how a faulty formula meant too many loos were provided on the processional route for men (169) and too few for women (332).

It said that provision should be increased to six female cubicles for every 1,000 spectators. The figure was cut to one for the men, who in turn benefited from a lengthening of their urinals from 6.6ft to 7.5ft.

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