Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee
London and other cities in the British empire
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 was both a more restrained and a far grander celebration of her reign than the Golden Jubilee of the previous decade. The Queen’s own involvement was greatly diminished on account of her increasing frailty. As an example of alterations in ceremony, the thanksgiving service took place not in Westminster Abbey, but in the open outside St Paul’s Cathedral, so that the Queen could remain in her carriage. The scope of the celebrations, however, expanded considerably for the Diamond Jubilee, with a celebration of empire becoming arguably the central theme: ‘unlike the Golden Jubilee, which had placed Victoria and her family at the centre of the festivities, the Diamond Jubilee would focus almost exclusively on a celebration of the British Empire’ (King, p. 19). Joseph Chamberlain is generally credited for this shift in focus.
Before leaving Buckingham Palace on 22 June, the Queen issued a telegraph throughout the empire, saying ‘From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them!’ Invitations had been issued to all the Indian princes, but many were forced to remain at home to deal with the aftermath of the devastating famine of 1896-7. Many Indian troops, however, participated in the processions through London, including Bengal lancers, officers of the Indian Imperial Service Troops in kirtas with gold sashes, and Sikhs marching alongside Canadians. The Daily Mail wrote: ‘Up they came, more and more, new types, new realms at every couple of yards, an anthropological museum – a living gazetteer of the British Empire’ (23 June 1897).
Upon her return to Windsor on 23 June, the Queen was met by four young Indian students from Eton College: ‘sons of the Maharajahs of Kuch, Behar, the Minister of Hydrebad, and the Prince of Gondal’ (King, p. 268). On 2 July the Queen surveyed the colonial troops at Windsor. A court circular erroneously claimed she had addressed the Indians in Hindustani, which was allowed to pass by the Queen who said ‘I could have done so had I wished’ (Ponsonby, pp. 62-3; quoted in King, p. 269).
Celebrations were also held throughout India. Typically, responses focused on the unifying effect of Queen Victoria, and presented her in a maternal light.
British Government, Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain (Colonial Secretary), community leaders throughout Britain and India.
Bharucha, A. M. and Thakore, D. P., The Diamond Jubilee at Surat and a Short Early Life of Her Majesty the Queen (Surat, The Mutual Improvement Society: Surat Khodabux Press, 1897)
Joshi, P. B., Victoria Mahotsava, or Verses in Commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty’s Reign (Bombay: Tatva-Vivechaka Press, 1897)
Royal Diamond Jubilee Commemoration Programme: Colombo, Sri Lanka. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Collection. http://www.jstor.org/stable/60230172
The Victorian Diamond Jubilee: Hindu Technical Institute, Punjab Inaugural Address on the Commercial and Industrial Development of India, 21st June, 1897 (Lahore: Tribune Press, 1897)
Daily Mail, 23 June 1897, and other contemporary newspapers
Buckle, George Earle (ed.), The Letters of Queen Victoria. A Selection from Her Majesty’s Correspondence and Journal between the Years 1886 and 1901, 3 vols (London: John Murray, 1930-2)
Chapman, Caroline and Raban, Paul (eds), Debrett’s Queen Victoria’s Jubilees 1887 and 1897, foreword by H. B. Brooks-Baker (London: Debrett’s Peerage Ltd, 1977)
Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria: A Personal History (London: HarperCollins, 2000)
King, Greg, Twilight of Splendour: The Court of Queen Victoria during Her Diamond Jubilee Year (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007)
Longford, Elizabeth, Queen Victoria (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964)
Ponsonby, Sir Frederick, Recollections of Three Reigns (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1952)
Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 years of history (London: Pluto Press, 2002)
Letters, journals, and other papers, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor
Newspapers from Britain and South Asia, British Library Newspapers, Colindale, London
National Archives of India, New Delhi