Queen Victoria and Britain's first Diamond Jubilee
The Queen's Jubilee procession was accompanied by a considerable display of imperial might
As the nation prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II, we look at the last time we had a Diamond Jubilee - Queen Victoria's in 1897.
While Victoria - like the present Queen - enjoyed her special year at a time when the monarchy was widely held in high esteem, there were profound differences in the way things were done then.
In 1887, Victoria had been feted on her Golden Jubilee with huge nationwide festivities, which included several modern-style royal walkabouts.
The Diamond Jubilee (the first time the term had been used in the context of a 60th anniversary) saw an older, less robust Queen take something of a backseat in the lavish "Festival of the British Empire" proposed by Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain.
Historian Prof Walter Arnstein said the whole idea of staging large public celebrations was still a novel concept to the British public of the day.
"Britons hadn't seen themselves as very good at such things. It was the sort of thing that people in Napoleonic France or Russia had been associated with.
"Queen Victoria herself didn't much care for the idea. She thought it was not altogether appropriate and had to be talked into it.
"She enjoyed it in retrospect, but beforehand had made things quite difficult for [prime minister] Lord Salisbury at the planning stage."
In 1897, it could be argued, the British Empire was at a high watermark. Victoria sat at the head of a realm of 450 million souls, stretched across every continent.
Since 1870, Britain had added Zanzibar, Fiji, Cyprus, Bechuanaland, Somaliland, Kenya, the New Hebrides, Rhodesia and Uganda to its fast-expanding colonies.
General Kitchener was well advanced in his successful campaign to re-establish what in effect amounted to British control of Sudan, and the embarrassing military defeats of the Boer War (1899-1902) had not yet deflated imperial prestige.
However, Britain's economic rivals were biting at her economic heels. The United States had already overtaken Britain in terms of industrial output and Germany was not far behind.
As an industrialist, Joseph Chamberlain promoted the importance of "opening up" the world to British goods. At a time when trade barriers were being put up all over Europe, a peaceful, growing empire seemed the best guarantor of that.
So it was that Tuesday, 22 June - Jubilee Day - came to be celebrated not just throughout Britain but across the globe.
Victoria was at the head of an empire that ruled a quarter of the world's population
The day was declared a bank holiday in India as well as in Britain and Ireland. Among the many civic works erected, there were memorial fountains in the Seychelles as well as Manchester and municipal clock-towers in Penang, Malaysia, and Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as in Maidenhead and Chester.
The highlight of the day itself - a generally bright day in an appalling year for British weather - was a procession along six miles of London streets of the extended Royal Family and the leaders of the self-governing dominions and Indian states.
The British Army and Royal Navy had their best and brightest on show - and the parade was accompanied by colonial forces from Canada, India, Africa and the Antipodes, all in their best dress uniforms.
The diminutive Queen, dressed in her habitual mourning black (as well as Albert, she had lost two children and six grandchildren by 1897) was confined to her state coach by painful arthritis.
Her parade from Buckingham Palace, via Mansion House, past Parliament and then across Westminster Bridge before recrossing the Thames for a service at St Paul's Cathedral, was watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators, huddled beneath bunting and banners - one of which declared Victoria "Queen of earthly Queens".
The 78-year-old monarch recorded: "No-one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those six miles of streets... The crowds were quite indescribable and their enthusiasm truly marvellous and deeply touching.
"The cheering was quite deafening and every face seemed to be filled with joy."
This post was modified from its original form on 23 May, 23:53
Free ale and tobacco
Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain was an enthusiastic imperialist
The celebrations had been the subject of tense negotiations between the officials of the Royal Household who said they were anxious to avoid "the expenses incurred to the Privy Purse" of the Golden Jubilee. In the end, the costs were split.
Prof Arnstein says: "In 1897, Queen Victoria said, in effect: 'If you want a big affair, then get the government to foot the bill.'"
But it wasn't just the high and mighty who celebrated. The spirit of Victorian philanthropy was kept alive and well with street feasts laid on for 400,000 of London's poorest residents and 100,000 of Manchester's. Tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton sponsored the London event, which included free bottles of ale and pipe tobacco.
The parties went on into the evening, with a chain of beacons lit across Britain; a series of civic festivities in the newly-created Jubilee cities of Nottingham, Bradford and Hull; fireworks displays; and the son et lumiere illumination of St Paul's for the first time. By order of the government, and to much disgust from the Temperance Movement, pubs remained open until 02:30.
It is not recorded whether Victoria - who was known as Drina within royal circles - enjoyed the following day as much, which included a meeting with 10,000 schoolchildren on a rainy Constitution Hill followed by a civic reception in Slough.
All the celebrations were very much focused on the empire, its success, its expansiveness and its seeming invincibility.
Historian and writer Juliet Gardiner says: "The year could be seen as the apogee of British power... once the Boer War started it was clear that we were a bit friendless in Europe."
There were of course dissenters. James Connolly, the Edinburgh-born Irish nationalist, called the Jubilee a "feast of flunkeyism" and wrote: "Join your voice with ours in protesting against the base assumption that we owe to this empire any other debt than that of hatred of all its plundering institutions."
But in mainland Great Britain - and in many of the colonies, such opinions were rare.
Ms Gardiner adds: "Queen Victoria was held in great reverence by the nation. People simply couldn't imagine life without her on the throne.
"Before her reign, the monarchy had been pretty unpopular overall. She could be said to have re-established the people's support for the monarchy."
- Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee petition on display in Cumbria
- Workington Diamond Jubilee petition on display
- Diamond Jubilee: Queen Victoria archive goes online
- Queen Victoria archive goes online
- Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook
So much of our moral values can be attributed to Queen Victoria. I have a lot of respect for her. Ray, is there anything on Queen Elizabeth I? How long was her reign?
Linda, I that much information at the moment on Victoria it is unreal, I will go though the BBC History which is another web-site of the BBC for information relating to Elizabeth I, as you aware Linda, there is alot of History in Britain which your Country is also part of, so I will advise yourself once I obtain this information.
We'll look forward to it, Ray.
Ray, I would be so happy and I am looking forward to it. Also, can you see what information there is on Anne Boleyn please. Apparently she is an ancestor of my family on my Great-Grandfather's side of the family and I have found some information but would love to see some from the British point of view. Thank you so much. You know me and history.
Prince Albert (1819 - 1861)
Prince Albert, 1854
Albert was the husband and consort of Queen Victoria and a significant influence on his wife. She never recovered from his premature death.
Albert Francis Charles Augustus Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born on 26 August 1819 at Schloss Rosenau, in Bavaria, the younger son of the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
When he was seven, his father divorced his mother on grounds of adultery, and she was sent to live in Switzerland and forbidden to see her children. Albert was educated at Bonn University.
In 1840, he married his cousin, Queen Victoria. The marriage was unpopular in some quarters, and parliament resisted granting Albert what his wife regarded as a suitable allowance.
Albert's role as advisor to his wife came into full force after the death of Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, who had exerted a strong paternal influence over Victoria, and Albert began to act as the queen's private secretary.
He encouraged in his wife a greater interest in social welfare and invited Lord Shaftesbury, the driving force behind successive factory acts, to Buckingham Palace to discuss the matter of child labour.
His constitutional position was a difficult one, and although he exercised his influence with tact and intelligence, he never enjoyed great public popularity during Victoria's reign.
It wasn't until 1857 that he was formally recognised by the nation and awarded the title 'prince consort'.
Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry.
He masterminded the Great Exhibition of 1851, with a view to celebrating the great advances of the British industrial age and the expansion of the empire. He used the profits to help to establish the South Kensington museums complex in London.
In the autumn of 1861, Albert intervened in a diplomatic row between Britain and the United States and his influence probably helped to avert war between the two countries.
When he died suddenly of typhoid on 14 December, Victoria was overwhelmed by grief and remained in mourning until the end of her life.
She commissioned a number of monuments in his honour, including the Royal Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens completed in 1876. Albert and Victoria had nine children, most of whom married into the other royal houses of Europe.
Victoria (1819 - 1901)
Victoria was the longest reigning British monarch and the figurehead of a vast empire. She oversaw huge changes in British society and gave her name to an age.
Victoria was born in London on 24 May 1819, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, and Victoria Maria Louisa of Saxe-Coburg. She succeeded her uncle, William IV, in 1837, at the age of 18, and her reign spanned the rest of the century.
In 1840, she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. For the next 20 years they lived in close harmony and had a family of nine children, many of whom eventually married into the European monarchy.
On her accession, Victoria adopted the Whig prime minister Lord Melbourne as her political mentor.
In 1840, his influence was replaced by that of Prince Albert. The German prince never really won the favour of the British public, and only after 17 years was he given official recognition, with the title of 'prince consort'.
Victoria nonetheless relied heavily on Albert and it was during his lifetime that she was most active as a ruler.
Britain was evolving into a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch had few powers and was expected to remain above party politics, although Victoria did sometimes express her views very forcefully in private.
Victoria never fully recovered from Albert's death in 1861 and she remained in mourning for the rest of her life.
Her subsequent withdrawal from public life made her unpopular, but during the late 1870s and 1880s she gradually returned to public view and, with increasingly pro-imperial sentiment, she was restored to favour with the British public. After the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the government of India was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown.
In 1877, Victoria became empress of India. Her empire also included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and large parts of Africa. During this period, Britain was largely uninvolved in European affairs, apart from the Crimean War from 1853 - 1856.
Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 were celebrated with great enthusiasm. Having witnessed a revolution in British government, huge industrial expansion and the growth of a worldwide empire, Victoria died on 22 January 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot" - such were the words of Queen Victoria after her first visit to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
No trip to the island would be complete without a visit to this royal seaside palace where Queen Victoria lived with her beloved Prince Albert and their nine children.
Take an intimate glimpse into Queen Victoria’s family life as you tour the nursery and private rooms of Victoria and Albert.
Marvel at the magnificence of the Royal Apartments including the sumptuous drawing and dining rooms and the richly decorated Indian-inspired Durbar Room.
Admire the stunning view from the terraces across the Solent – said to remind Prince Albert of the bay of Naples and stroll through Osborne’s extensive grounds. Don’t miss the miniature Swiss Cottage, built to teach the royal children the art of household management!
Ray, thank you, thank you, wonderful information. Is Osbourne House now a museum or is it still a residence used by the Royalty?
Linda, I am looking at Osbourne house if the almost the same as Shugbrough Hall, yes it is a museum, but it maybe a working museum like Shugbrough Hall, with a working museum the staff have to wear the clothing of that day in time, so any visitors go back in time,
now if Osbourne House is the same as I stated this would be amazing site to visit
I been to Shugbrough Hall and I can really say, I did go back in time, problem is Linda, I had come back into my own time which was upsetting, however, I did enjoyed the visit.
Ray, there are a number of places around the U.S. that are similar to this (working musuem). They may not go back as far in hsitory, but they are well worth seeing. I woiuld love to see both Osbourne House and Shugbrough Hall as I love those type of musuems and "going back in time" like that.
If you have never been to the U.S. I think that there are so many things to see. For a first visit, of course you would want to see some of the East Coast things; therefore, Wasington D.C. and the Smithsonium which is the most awesome place. My Aunt told me that if you want to see Washington D.C., to visit the Capital Building, White House, and the Mall with the Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln Monuments, the War Memorials which includes the Wall honoring Vietnam veterans killed in action, etc. But then go to the Smithsonium and plan to spend a week there the first time you visit as you can't just go there for a day and see that much. So this would take care of the first visit to the U.S. if you were only going to be here a couple of weeks.
The next visit you would want to see Williamsburg which is a whole commuinity that dresses in period clothing of the early years of the U.S. (colonial times), and during that visit you might want to see Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell, Gettysburg and the where the battle took place, Arlington Cemetery, and other sites of both Revolutionary War and Civil War up and down the East Coast from Virginia south.
Next visit you would maybe like to see other parts of the U.S. One that I love is to tollow the Oregon Trail which is the route that the settlers took when they started to migrate to the West Coast (California and Oregon Territory). There is so much history associated with this, too.
Ray, I have realized that I could spend the rest of my life traveling around the U.S. and still never see all the things that there are to see. In my home State there are so many things, a working farm that dates back to the 1850's but shows how things were done before more modern equipment, Native American communities and reservations, the Coastal and Cascade Mountain ranges, some outstanding museums such as Marynoll, Grace Campbell House, and any number of them on the West side of the state, wineries, apple and fruit orchards, Grand Coulee Dam which is one of the largest in the U.S. and built under Franklyn D. Roosevelt, the Columbia River and Columbia Basin Irrigation System also built under F.D. Roosevelt, many beautiful lakes and rivers and recreational areas, and I could spend many years just exploring there. Each state has it's unique landscape, historical sites and so much more to offer.
I believe that England and the British Isles would be so much the same and more as the history is so much older. I would love to have the opportuinity to visit there in my lifetime.
Thank you for sharing the historical information and please continue to do so.
Oh my, look at that beautiful period furniture! Thanks, Ray, for sharing this beautiful museum's interior.