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Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

The only previous Diamond Jubilee celebrated by a British monarch took place in 1897, when Queen Victoria marked 60 years of her reign. Below are 60 facts about the celebrations in 1897

1. Queen Victoria was 78 when she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and although elderly in appearance with limited mobility, she attended and presided over large and varied national events.

View British Pathe footage of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Click here to view the complete British Pathe Diamond Jubilee film collection.

2. Queen Victoria had marked her Golden Jubilee in 1887. This was celebrated, in particular, on 20 and 21 June 1887, and included a Royal banquet attended by 50 foreign Kings and Princes, a procession in a State landau to Westminster Abbey and an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

3. A selection of names was suggested for the commemoration of Queen’s Victoria 60 year reign.  However, it was decided that a combination of ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Diamond’ from the 60th wedding anniversary commemoration would be a suitable title.

4. On Sunday 20 June, 1897, Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee Accession Day at Windsor Castle.  

5. On the morning the anniversary of her Accession to the Throne, Queen Victoria marked her Diamond Jubilee by attending a Thanksgiving service with her family at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

6. Thanksgiving services were held in almost every Church and Place of Worship of every denomination in the United Kingdom.

7. The hymn, “O King of Kings” was written by the Bishop of Wakefield for the Diamond Jubilee and set to music by Arthur Sullivan. It was used by all Churches and Chapels in England and Wales on Sunday 20 June.

8. A form of prayer with thanksgiving to Almighty God was used in all Churches and Chapels in England and Wales.

View British Pathe footage of Queen Victoria at a Garden Party. Click here to view the complete British Pathe Diamond Jubilee film collection.

9. Queen Victoria spent the rest of her Accession Day “driving out” with members of her family, meeting “Officers of the Cavalry Guard of Honour” and “witnessed a Military Tattoo in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle”.

10. At Windsor Castle, The Poet Laureate, Mr. Alfred Austin, presented Queen Victoria with an especially composed poem “Victoria”.

11. On 20 June 1897, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary: “How well I remember this day 60 years ago when I was called from my bed by dear Mama to receive the news of my accession.”

12. On Monday 21 June, Queen Victoria left Windsor Castle and travelled to London by train, arriving at Paddington Station.

13. In the evening the Queen hosted a State Banquet in the State Supper Room, where the Band of the Royal Engineers played a selection of music under the direction of Mr. J. Sommer, Bandmaster. After the dinner a reception was held in the Ballroom for invitees of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

14. On 21 June 1897, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary: “The streets were beautifully decorated, also the balconies of the houses, with flowers, flags and draperies of every hue.”

15. A public holiday for the Diamond Jubilee was declared on Tuesday, 22 June. It was also a holiday in India and “at all Foreign Places where British subjects were resident”.

16. Representatives of all the Empire nations were involved in the main Jubilee procession on 22nd June 1897, as well as in many of the parades and receptions organised in honour of the Jubilee.

17. Queen Victoria left Buckingham Palace at 11.15am on the morning of Tuesday 22 June to proceed through London, “for the purpose of seeing Her People and of Receiving their Congratulations on having attained the Sixtieth Anniversary of Her Majesty’s Reign”.

18. Seventeen carriages carried guests in Queen Victoria’s procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Occupants included Queen Victoria’s family, Royal families from around the world, Military, Naval and Marine Aides-de-Camp to the Queen, and envoys and ambassadors.

19. The Queen in a carriage pulled by eight cream horses. Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (third daughter of Queen Victoria) and The Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) accompanied her.   

20. As the Queen walked with difficulty and was unable to climb the steps to the Cathedral, it was decided to hold the service outside with Queen Victoria remaining in her carriage.

21. A “Te Deum” (a hymn of praise) was sung on the steps of the Cathedral.

22. The Warders of the Tower of London were stationed on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on during the open-air thanksgiving service.

23. After the short service, Queen Victoria stopped at Mansion House to be Welcomed in to the City of London by the Lord Mayor. She then toured London in her carriage so that as many people as possible could see her. The route back to Buckingham Palace included crossing London Bridge and over Westminster Bridge, before travelling back to the Palace along the Mall.

24. Boeuf braise was served at the Royal Luncheon, attended by the guests who had travelled in the carriage procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

25. The streets of London were illuminated on the night of 22 June and bonfires were lit simultaneously on hills all over the country.

26. On 22 June 1897, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary: “A never to be forgotten day. No one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those 6 miles of streets, including Constitution Hill. 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.”

27. Her Majesty’s Royal Guests (not Crowned Heads of State) arrived for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on 19 June and took their leave on 28 June 1897.

28. On 23 June Queen Victoria was greeted by 10,000 school children on Constitution Hill on her way to Paddington station.

29. Humble Addresses by both Houses of Parliament were presented to Queen Victoria in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday 23rd June. 200 Peers and 500 Members of Parliament attended each Address. According to the Court Circular for that day “Her Majesty returned a most gracious answer” on both occasions.

30. Queen Victoria held a reception at Buckingham Palace for Chairmen and Conveners of County Councils, Mayors, Lord Provosts and Provosts of the United Kingdom were presented to the Queen. Refreshments were served in the garden of the Palace.

31. Gold, diamond-shaped medal were given to the Lord Mayors and Lord Provosts and Silver medals of the same shape to Mayors and Provosts.

32. After the celebrations in London, on Wednesday 23 June Queen Victoria returned to Windsor Castle, travelling by train to Slough. She was greeted by dignitaries from the “county of Buckingham” and Slough. Three pupils from the British Orphan school gave the Queen, their patron, a bouquet.

33. On 25 June 1897, Queen Victoria drove to Home Park and saw 5000 school children from Windsor and the neighbourhood.

34. On Friday 25 June, Queen Victoria was driven in a carriage to Windsor Home Park to inspect a parade of firemen from across England. Afterwards, she drove between the lines of steam and manual fire engines

35. In the evening, a torchlight procession of boys from Eton School, sang for Queen Victoria in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle and the boys created formations on the ground including the cipher ‘V.R’. They were accompanied by the band and drums of the Coldstream Guards, performing a number of songs including ‘Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save The Queen”. Afterwards the boys gave Queen Victoria three cheers.

36. A Royal Review of Her Majesty’s Fleet at Spithead took place on 26 June 1897. Her Majesty was not present but represented by The Prince of Wales. The Fleet consisted of 21 battleships and 53 cruisers, in addition to numerous smaller craft, and the Prince of Wales inspected the ships from the Royal Yacht ‘Victoria and Albert.’

37. Queen Victoria held a Review of the “Regular and Colonial Troops” at Aldershot on 1 July.

38. During Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations she hosted and met hundreds of dignitaries, politicians, members of the armed forces from the UK and across the world.

39. Queen Victoria received in person Deputations from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London on 19 July 1897.

40. The Queen received the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Archbishops, Bishops, Missionary Bishops and Assistant Bishops during their Lambeth Conference.

41. Queen Victoria received addresses by Deputations from other denominations: Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists.

42. Queen Victoria viewed a new clock placed in Holy Trinity Church, Windsor to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.

43. Queen Victoria received 1,310 telegrams of congratulations from all around the world.

44. On 16th July, Queen Victoria wrote a letter of thanks expressing her gratitude to her people for “the spontaneous and universal outburst of loyal attachment and real affection” which she had experienced during her Diamond Jubilee.

45. Queen Victoria sent a telegram to the Empire: “From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them.”

46. On 26 August, Queen Victoria gave a fete at Osborne House to the labourers on the estate, the servants and some of the men of the Royal Yachts: “The people had dinner after which there were rustic games and dancing… The weather was unfortunately very wet”.

47. Nottingham, Bradford and Kingston-upon-Hull were raised from boroughs to cities on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

48. Queen Victoria drove through Windsor one evening during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations and assembled crowds pelted her with confetti. She playfully swung her parasol from one side to the other to counter the confetti shower.

49. Queen Victoria was given a tiger’s skull mounted with a timepiece from the Prime Minister of Hyderabad.

50. Queen Victoria was given a bamboo walking stick with a tortoise-shell handle from a Mrs. Kendall.

51. Queen Victoria was given a pearl and diamond brooch with a pearl centre and drop from present and former members of Her Majesty’s Household.

52. A Grand Diamond Jubilee Festival was held at The Royal Albert Hall on 19 June. There were 5000 admissions at one shilling.

53. “The Longest Reign” waltz by Ezra Read was published in 1897 in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

54. Queen Victoria made two public visits on the Isle of Wight near her home Osborne House. She visited Newport on 24 July and  Cowes on 27 July.

55. Garden parties were held by Queen Victoria to mark her Diamond Jubilee. One was held at Buckingham Palace on 18 June and another at Windsor for MPs on 3 July. Garden Parties were introduced by Queen Victoria and continue to be regular summer events in the Royal calendar.

56. Queen Victoria inspected Officers of Her Majesty’s Imperial Service Troops and Indian Cavalry Corps who served as a Guard of Honour during the celebration of Diamond Jubilee.

57. Queen Victoria inspected Volunteers from Public Schools at Windsor on 29 June 1897.

58. Medals were conferred upon “Colonial Premiers” by Queen Victoria.

59. To mark the Diamond Jubilee, a special commemorative medal was conferred on members of the Royal Family, Royal Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen of Queen Victoria’s and other Households. Medals in gold, silver and bronze had been given in Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.

60. Recipients of the Jubilee medal in 1887 were awarded a clasp or a bar for 1897.

View British Film Institute footage of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations:

Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee procession through London, © The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee procession through London, The Royal Collection © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
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Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee procession through London, © The Royal Collection Official photograph of Queen Victoria in 1897 © The Royal Collection Bank Holiday Proclamation © Reserved Commemorative medal from Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee © The Royal Collection Queen Victoria arriving at Castle Hill, Windsor Castle © The Royal Collection Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee procession in London, © The Royal Collection Queen Victoria at a Diamond Jubilee garden party, © The Royal Collection Queen Victoria's procession returns to Buckingham Palace © The Royal Collection Queen Victoria's procession passing the National Gallery © The Royal Collection