A History of Jubilees and The Royal Family

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What is a Jubilee?

Royal Jubilees are an occasion to celebrate the life and reign of a Monarch.

Though the concept of the Jubilee began in biblical times, today the term is most closely associated with the Royal Family, and the ceremony and spectacle which the term symbolises.

As we get closer to The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we’ll be taking a closer look at how previous Monarchs have celebrated these historic milestones by sharing items in the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing artefacts from King George III's Golden Jubilee, Queen Victoria's Golden and Diamond Jubilees and King George V and Queen Mary's Silver Jubilee.

King George III's Golden Jubilee

The celebration of the Sovereign's Jubilee years really began in the long reign of King George III.

The Coronation portrait of King George III

The beginning of the fiftieth year of his reign, on 25 October 1809, was marked by The King and other members of The Royal Family attending a private service in Windsor and a grand fete and firework display at Frogmore. 

In London, the Lord Mayor and Corporation processed to St Paul's Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving before holding a dinner at the Mansion House. 

A number of medals were also produced to celebrate the occasion, a tradition that has continued with subsequent Jubilees, including this year's Platinum Jubilee.

This medal in the Royal Collection shows features the side profile of The King, and is inscribed with ‘GEO. III. BORN 4th JUNE 1738. ASCENDd THE THRONE OCTr 25th 1760’, ‘COMPLETED 50TH YEAR OF HIS REIGN OCT 25TH 1810’.

The reverse features the inscription ‘THE FIFTIETH YEAR’ and features the image of three young children holding a flaming heart before Britannia seated upon a plinth, which is inscribed 'FROGMORE'.

Visit the Royal Collection's website below look at other medals that were produced to celebrate His Majesty's Golden Jubilee:

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee was celebrated on 20 and 21 June 1887. 

20 June 1887

On 20 June the day began quietly with breakfast under the trees at Frogmore, the resting place of her beloved late husband, Prince Albert. 

“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….”

Queen Victoria's Journal

She then travelled by train from Windsor to Paddington and across the parks to Buckingham Palace for a lunch. The menu card from the lunch is pictured below.

Golden Jubilee lunch menu card

In the evening there was a dinner, which was attended by The Queen’s large family alongside fifty foreign Kings and Princes.

Below is the music list and seating plan for the dinner.

Music list for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Dinner

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Dinner Seating Plan

At the end of the day, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary:

“Had a large family dinner. All the Royalties assembled in the Bow Room, & we dined in the Supper Room which looked splendid with the Buffett covered with the gold plate...Afterwards we went into the Ball Room, where my Band played. I talked to as many as I could…..”

21 June 1887

On the following day, Queen Victoria travelled in an open landau to Westminster Abbey, escorted by Indian cavalry. The procession through London, according to Mark Twain, "stretched to the limit of sight in both directions".

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Procession

This Ceremonial shows the form and route of the Royal Procession between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, as well as the procession within the Abbey itself.  

Ceremonial for the Procession to Westminster Abbey

Soldiers marched past the spectators, who were accommodated on terraced benches along 10 miles of scaffolding erected for the purpose. Queen Victoria rode in the procession in her gilded State landau, drawn by six cream-coloured horses She refused to wear a crown, wearing instead a bonnet and a long dress.

At Westminster Abbey, there was a Service Thanksgiving service held for The Queen.

Princess Mary of Teck’s (later Queen Mary) copy of the Order of Service:

Princess Mary of Teck's Order of Service

On return to the Palace, she appeared on the balcony, where she was cheered by huge crowds. In the Ballroom she distributed Jubilee brooches to her family. 

In the evening, she put on a splendid gown embroidered with silver roses, thistles and shamrocks for a banquet. You can see the dinner menu and seating plan below.

Golden Jubilee Dinner Menu

Golden Jubilee seating plan

The Queen reflected on the day in her diary, with a tinge of sadness there her beloved husband Prince Albert was not there.

“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” 

Message to the Nation

Queen Victoria wrote a message of thanks to the Nation, which was then published in the London Gazette and national newspapers.

Queen Victoria's Message to the Nation

The message reads:

“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, will encourage me in my task, often a very difficult and 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.”

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