Everybody will remember the magnitude of celebrations commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. From the River Thames pageant to the concert outside Buckingham Palace and especially the extended Bank Holiday weekend. Let’s not forget though that The Queen’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, was also a Monarch, who celebrated 60 years on the throne, and though celebrations were still immense, they were irrevocably different.
For one they didn’t have the likes of Jessie J and Sir Paul McCartney performing outside Victoria’s home in 1897!
On the 22nd June, Queen Victoria lead the Jubilee procession through London to St Paul’s Cathedral. There were 17 carriages in the procession that carried The Queen’s family as well as foreign Royal Families, envoys and ambassadors to Her Majesty. Victoria was accompanied in her carriage by Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and Alexandra, Princess of Wales. Owing to Queen Victoria’s difficulty with walking, the Jubilee thanksgiving service was held outside of St Paul’s. Her Majesty remained in her carriage where she listened to a ‘Te Deum’ being sung on the steps. The open air service also saw the Tower of London Warders stationed on the steps of the centuries-old Cathedral.
From St Paul’s Cathedral, Queen Victoria attended a short luncheon at Mansion House. After, she began a tour of London in her carriage so that as many of her people could catch a quick glimpse of the Jubilee Queen. Her route included crossing London Bridge and Westminster Bridge as well as a lengthy trek down The Mall.
Up and down the country, neighbourhoods were getting involved in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Organised festivities, however, big or small, were put on to mark the momentous occasion with streets being decorated with triumphal arches, flags and bunting. Jubilee mugs and medals were presented to children while elderly women were given tea and the elderly men were treated to tobacco. Cycle races, parades and cricket matches were organised to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 60th year on the throne as well as banquets, ox roasting, firework displays and the lighting of Diamond Jubilee beacons across the country.
As well as being Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Victoria was also the Queen of an Empire, the British Empire. An empire that stretched from one side of the globe to the other, the Diamond Jubilee of its Queen was, of course, celebrated as momentously as it was back home. Sydney’s famous harbour was illuminated quite spectacularly on the night of 22nd June 1897. Moose Jaw in Canada saw local militia processed through the town whilst the country chose the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee to release its first set of commemorative stamps. Statues of Queen Victoria were also unveiled in Port Said, Egypt and Kingston in Jamaica.
While the official Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was on 22nd June 1897, celebrations continued long after, especially in London. In a project organised by Alexandra, Princess of Wales some 300,000 poor people were treated to Jubilee dinners. The Princess of Wales visited at least four of these dinners accompanied by The Prince of Wales including to one at the People’s Palace for crippled children.
Following the Thanksgiving service on the 22nd June, Queen Victoria returned to Windsor Castle where she was greeted by dignitaries from the county of Buckingham and Slough. Pupils from the British Orphan school presented The Queen, their patron, with a bouquet of flowers. On the evening of the 25th June, Queen Victoria witnessed a torchlight procession of boys from Eton School, who sang for Her Majesty in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle. After singing they created formations on the ground including the cipher ‘V.R’. The Coldstream Guards also performed for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle that night with songs including ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘God Save The Queen’.
Queen Victoria may not have had a concert or a river pageant to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee, the scale of celebrations were just as immense if not more, Victoria was the Queen of the Empire after all. 115 years after she celebrated 60 years on the throne, Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, achieved the same feat. It is looking more and more likely that Her Majesty will go on to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, an occasion marked by no other British Monarch in history. While it’s a certainty that Queen Victoria might not be amused by this, one is sure she would be incredibly proud!