Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria

Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Service, Westminster Abbey, 21 June 1887 (1887–1890) by William Ewart Lockhart
GenreJubilee of British monarch
Date(s)20–21 June 1887
Country
Previous eventGolden Jubilee of George III
Next eventDiamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria
Two sides of a coin, with head view of Victoria on one side and a design on the other
Victoria's Golden Jubilee silver double florin, struck 1887

The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated on 20 and 21 June 1887 to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession on 20 June 1837. It was celebrated with a Thanksgiving Service at Westminster Abbey, and a banquet to which 50 European kings and princes were invited.

Background

Westminster Abbey prepared for the Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving, showing the Coronation Chair on a raised dais and the temporary galleries built into the transepts. These alterations were the only part of the jubilee to be financed by the government.

As the fiftieth anniversary of Victoria's accession approached, public anticipation of national celebrations began to grow, encouraged by the Liberal politician, Lord Granville. At the previous royal jubilee, the Golden Jubilee of George III, the king had been ill at Windsor Castle, so there was little precedent to follow. In 1872, the recovery of Edward, Prince of Wales from a bout of typhoid fever was marked by Victoria processing through London to a thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral; despite the queen's reluctance, this had proved to be a resounding success which had silenced the many critics of the monarchy. For the Golden Jubilee, Victoria had informed the Conservative prime minister, Lord Salisbury, that she intended to have a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey, and ignoring the Biblical tradition that the start of the fiftieth year should be celebrated, the jubilee should mark the completion of fifty years. The service should reference Victoria's coronation, although the queen would not wear a crown or robes of state. This entailed considerable alterations inside the Abbey, which Lord Salisbury reluctantly agreed to finance, but he insisted that the queen should underwrite the rest of the costs.

The Queen's Jubilee message

On the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, Queen Victoria wrote a message of thanks to her people, which was then published in the London Gazette and national newspapers:

"I am anxious to express to my people my warm thanks for the kind & more than kind reception I met with on going to, returning from Westminster Abbey, with all my Children & Grand Children. The enthusiastic reception I met with then as well as on all these eventful days in London as well as in Windsor on the occasion of my Jubilee has touched me most deeply. It has shown that the labour & anxiety of 50 long years – 22 of which I spent in unclouded happiness, shared & cheered by my beloved Husband, while an equal number were full of sorrows & trials, borne without his sheltering arm & wise help have been appreciated by my People. This feeling & the cause of duty towards my dear Country & subjects, who are so inseparably bound up with my life, will encourage me in my task often a very difficult & arduous one, during the remainder of my life. The wonderful order preserved on this occasion & the good behaviours of the enormous multitudes assembled merits my highest admiration. That God may protect & abundantly bless my Country is my fervent prayer."

— Queen Victoria

Celebrations

India

The Golden Jubilee in India; a triumphal arch over the Queen's statue in Bombay.

The first official Golden Jubilee celebrations were in the Indian Empire, and began in February to avoid the summer heat. Events took place across India on Jubilee Day, 16 February, orchestrated by the Viceroy, Lord Lytton, although his attempts to link the event with the perceived success of the British administration were mostly ignored by local rulers. A durbar in Bombay (now Mumbai) was attended by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Additionally, Victoria had a contingent of cavalry from the British Indian Army brought to London to be her personal escort, and engaged two Indian Muslims as waiters, one of whom was Abdul Karim. Invitations to the jubilee celebrations were extended to the rulers of the Indian Princely States, several of whom were willing to make the lengthy journey.

20 June

On 20 June 1887, the Queen had breakfast outdoors under the trees at Frogmore, where Prince Albert had been buried. She wrote in her diary:

The day has come, & I am alone, though surrounded by many dear Children. I am writing after a very fatiguing day, in the Garden at Buckingham Palace, where I used to sit so often in former happy days. 50 years ago today since I came to the throne. God has mercifully sustained me through many great trials & sorrows….

The garden party at Buckingham Palace for the Jubilee, 20 June 1887

She then travelled by train from Windsor station to Paddington then to Buckingham Palace for a lunch. In the evening, there was a banquet, which fifty foreign kings and princes, along with the governing heads of Britain's overseas colonies and dominions, attended. She wrote in her diary:

Had a large family dinner. All the Royalties assembled in the Bow Room, and we dined in the Supper-room, which looked splendid with the buffet covered with the gold plate. The table was a large horseshoe one, with many lights on it. The King of Denmark took me in, and Willy of Greece sat on my other side. The Princes were all in uniform, and the Princesses were all beautifully dressed. Afterwards we went into the Ballroom, where my band played.

21 June

Queen Victoria leaving Buckingham Palace for Westminster Abbey, 21 June 1887

The next day, the Queen participated in a procession in an open landau, drawn by six cream-coloured horses, through London to Westminster Abbey escorted by Colonial Indian cavalry. She refused to wear a crown, wearing instead a bonnet and a long dress. The procession through London, according to Mark Twain, "stretched to the limit of sight in both directions". The spectators were accommodated on terraced benches along 10 miles of scaffolding erected for the purpose.

At Westminster Abbey, there was a Service of Thanksgiving held for the Queen's reign. The music included the singing of a Te Deum which had been composed by Prince Albert. During the Service, a beam of sunlight fell upon her bowed head, which the future Queen Liliʻuokalani of Hawaii observing noted as a mark of divine favour.

On her return to the Palace, she went to her balcony and was cheered by the crowd. In the ballroom she distributed brooches made for the Jubilee to her family. In the evening, she put on a gown embroidered with silver roses, thistles and shamrocks and attended a banquet. Afterwards she received a procession of diplomats and Indian princes. She was then wheeled in her chair to sit and watch fireworks in the palace garden.

The Queen's landau processing along Regent Street, escorted by British Indian Army horsemen and the Household Cavalry.

The Queen reflected on the day in her diary:

This very eventful day has come & is passed. It will be very difficult to describe it, but all went off admirably….The morning was beautiful & bright with a fresh air. Troops began passing early, with Bands playing, & one heard constant cheering. The crowds from the Palace gates up to the Abbey were enormous, & there was such an extraordinary outburst of enthusiasm as I have hardly ever seen in London before, all the people seemed to be in such good humour. The old Chelsea Pensioners were in a stand near the Arch. The decorations along Piccadilly were quite beautiful & there were most touching inscriptions. Seats & platforms were arranged up to the tops of the houses, & such waving of hands. Piccadilly, Regent Street & Pall Mall were alike, most festively decorated. Many schools out & many well-known faces were seen…God save the Queen was played & then changed to Handel's Occasional Overture, as I was led slowly up the Nave & Choir, which looked beautiful all filled with people….I sat alone oh! without my beloved Husband (for whom this would have been such a proud day!)…The service was very well done & arranged. The "Te Deum" by my darling Albert sounded beautiful, & the anthem by Dr Bridge was fine, especially the way in which the National Anthem & dear Albert's Chorale were worked in. Dr Stainer's beautiful 'Amen' at the end of the service, was most impressive….The noise of the crowd, which began yesterday went on till late. Felt truly grateful that all had passed off so admirably & this never to be forgotten day, will always leave the most gratifying & heart stirring memoirs behind.

22 June

Jubilee statue of Victoria by Joseph Edgar Boehm at Castle Hill, Windsor, unveiled by the Queen on 22 June.

The next morning, Victoria went to St James's Palace to visit her elderly aunt, the dowager Duchess of Cambridge. In the afternoon, the Queen attended a party in Hyde Park for 26,000 schoolchildren, who were all given a glass of milk, a bun and a Jubilee mug. Returning to Windsor by train, the Queen then unveiled a bronze statue of herself in Castle Hill by Sir Edgar Boehm, before viewing a torchlight procession by the schoolboys of Eton College.

Aldershot review

On 9 July, Victoria and other members of the royal family attended a Jubilee Field State Review of the British Army at Aldershot. The total number of troops participating was over 58,000; including 21,200 regular soldiers, 4,500 Militia, 270 Yeomanry and 33,000 Volunteers. The Queen, with an escort of the 10th Royal Hussars in which Prince Albert Victor was serving, received an address by the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, and then watched the entire force march past in review. Although the ground had been watered that morning by two traction engines, the passing of so many boots and hooves threw up great clouds of dust, to the annoyance of the huge crowd of spectators. Following lunch in a specially erected pavilion, the Queen returned to Windsor by train.

Spithead review

A watercolour by William Lionel Wyllie showing the royal yacht reviewing the lines of warships at the Spithead review.

On 23 July, Victoria and the royal family attended a Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead offshore from Portsmouth. Present were more than one hundred Royal Navy warships and dozens of other vessels. The British fleet included 26 ironclads, 14 cruisers, 31 gunboats and 38 torpedo boats; between them these ships carried 442 guns and were manned by 16,136 officers and ratings. Also present were several foreign warships, as well as troopships, large merchant ships, yachts and numerous small craft filled with spectators. The Queen and other important guests passed along the lines of anchored ships in a flotilla led by the royal yacht, HMY Victoria and Albert. That night, the ships were illuminated by their searchlights. A report for the United States Navy described the review as "the most imposing ever seen afloat".

Other events

At the Jubilee, the Queen engaged two Indian Muslims as waiters, one of whom was Abdul Karim.

A commemorative bust of Victoria was commissioned from the sculptor Francis John Williamson. Many copies were made, and distributed throughout the British Empire.

A special Golden Jubilee Medal was instituted and awarded to participants of the jubilee celebrations.

Writer and geographer John Francon Williams published The Jubilee Atlas of the British Empire especially to commemorate Victoria's Jubilee and her Jubilee year.

Many British towns and cities commissioned new monuments, public clocks or buildings to mark the event, including Queen's Arcade in Leeds, the Jubilee Memorial, Harrogate, the Jubilee Clock Tower, Weymouth, the Jubilee Clock Tower, Brighton and the Clock Tower, Crewe.

Gallery

Royal guests at the Jubilee celebrations

British royal family

Other descendants of the Queen's paternal grandfather, King George III and their families:

Foreign royals

See also


This page was last updated at 2023-12-10 01:54 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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