Monday, June 20, 2011

June 22, 1897 --- The Diamond Jubilee

Millions crowd London for the great Imperial parade to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Unlike the Silver Jubilee of '87 which was dominated by visiting royalty from around the world, this 60th anniversary of Victoria's reign focuses on the Empire. The seemingly endless parade includes, to name but a few, the Royal Nigerian Constabulary (described in The Times as "the blackest of the blacks," who with shaved heads glistening in the summer sunshine were "enthusiastically greeted"), the Sierra Leone militia with their "strange, small blue turbans," and the crowd's favorite, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. From Buckingham Palace, using the new telegraph, the Queen sends a message to her far flung subjects, "From my heart, I thank my beloved people, God Bless them!"

The Queen left the palace to attend Thanksgiving Services at St. Paul's, still in her mourning colors, dressed in a black silk dress and black lace bonnet. For the day, however, she displays an array of diamond rings and brooches. She had been dreading the day, complaining to her doctor, "I am feeling tired and somewhat depressed." However the day lifted the spirits of the 78-year old Monarch; she writes breathlessly in her diary, "No one ever, I believe, has ever been met with such an ovation as was given me. I was much moved and gratified."

Timed for 10 o'clock in the evening, more than 2500 bonfires are lit across the British Isles in her honor. Not everyone joins in the orgy of self-congratulation. The Fabians donate one nugatory pound to the campaign to pay for decorating the Strand and refuse to sing the National Anthem. Rudyard Kipling, who despised the boozy "mateyness" of it all, penned his cautionary poem, Recessional:
Far-called our navies melt away -
-On dune and headland sinks the fire -
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nation, spare us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget.

The long day takes a lot out of the Queen. The following day, she hosted a reception for all the members of Parliament, the various County dignitaries and 400 mayors from across Britain. In her journal again, she concedes, "I felt quite sleepy."

1 comment:

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