Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee: Fascinating diary entries paint an eerily acquainted image of an ailing monarch
Queen Elizabeth’s great-great grandmother was the last reigning monarch to celebrate a milestone Jubilee, over half a century before Her Majesty took the throne in 1952.
At the turn of the century in 1897, Queen Victoria was preparing to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee to mark 60 years since her ascension.
It was the first time any monarch had celebrated a diamond anniversary in British history.
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Queen Victoria during her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. (Historic Royal Palaces/Instagram)
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Victoria reigned from 1837 until 1901 and was known as the “mother” of the British empire and its dominions due to her lasting time in the throne.
She was crowned Queen of England at age 18, succeeding her uncle King William IV, and would later become the first British monarch to celebrate the 50th (Golden) and 60th (Diamond) Jubilee, before Queen Elizabeth II.
While the 1887 Golden Jubilee was emphasized Victoria’s role as the “grandmother of Europe”with parades dominated by her children and children, the 1897 Diamond Jubilee celebrated her as the matriarch of the entire British empire.
“Unlike the Golden Jubilee, which had placed Victoria and her family at the center of the festivities, the Diamond Jubilee would focus almost exclusively on a celebration of the British Empire,” Greg King wrote in his book, Twilight of Splendor: The Court of Queen Victoria during Her Diamond Jubilee Year.
Victoria kept detailed journals during her reign as Queen. (The LIFE Picture Collection via)
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Then aged 78, Victoria’s own involvement in her second jubilee was “diminished” due to her “increasing fragility” in old age. She suffered from severe arthritis and couldn’t face the steps to the cathedral.
“The Queen does not desire to undergo the fatigue of leaving her carriage and ascending the steps of the cathedral,” the International Herald Tribune wrote in 1897.
The Thanksgiving Service took place outside St Paul’s Cathedral instead of Westminster Abbey, so the Queen could remain in her carriage.
Before leaving Buckingham Palace to embark on her tour of London for the celebrations, Victoria issued a telegraph throughout the empire: “‘From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them!”
“How well I remember this day sixty years ago when I was called from my bed by dear Mama to receive the news of my accession”
The Queen, along with her daughter Princess Helena and her son Edward VII’s wife, the Princess of Wales, took part in an open carriage ride, with 17 other carriages carrying other members of the royal family following close behind.
The then Premier of NSW, George Reid, was in attendance, alongside 11 Prime Ministers from colonial nations.
Victoria also kept detailed journals during her time as the reigning monarch.
She wrote on the 60th anniversary of her accession: “This eventful day, 1897 has opened, and I pray God to help and protect me as He has hitherto done these sixty long eventful years! I feel sad at the new losses I have sustained, especially the last one of our beloved Liko!”
A portrait of Queen Victoria during her coronation in 1838. (Getty)
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“God will surely help me on! How well I remember this day sixty years ago when I was called from my bed by dear Mama to receive the news of my accession!”
Of her procession through the streets of London, Victoria recalled how “touching” it was to see thousands of citizens from the Commonwealth of Nations celebrate her reign.
“No-one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those six miles of streets…” she wrote.
“The crowds were quite indescribable and their enthusiasm truly marvelous and deeply touching. The cheering was quite deafening and every face seemed to be filled with joy.
“I was alarmed at times for fear the people would be crushed and squeezed on account of the tremendous rush and pressure.”
Despite her ailing health, Queen Victoria partook in several key engagements during the fortnight-long Jubilee, including a visit to schoolchildren and a reception in Slough.
Queen Elizabeth viewing Queen Victoria’s diaries in 2012. (Getty)
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The celebrations lasted for two weeks and a state banquet at Buckingham Palace was held in Victoria’s honour, as well as memorial fountains and towers to mark the occasion.
Victoria’s diaries, which run to a staggering 43,000 pages, were made available to the public in 2012 after the Queen launched a website to showcase her musings on her own Diamond Jubilee year.
The journals provide a fascinating insight into Victoria’s life and reign, as they begin at age 13 and run until just days before her death.
After her Diamond Jubilee, Victoria lived another four years until her death age 81 on January 22, 1901. She died at Osbourne House at the Isle of Wight, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
Her death marked the end of an era. Many of her subjects knew no other monarch in their lifetimes and her 63-year reign was the longest in British history – that is until Queen Elizabeth II, who will be the first monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee this June.
Victoria died of a cerebral haemorrhage, a type of stroke, and wrote in one of her final diary entries: “From not having been well, I see so badly, which is very tiresome.”
She was succeeded by her son, Edward VII, the Queen’s grandfather, who reigned until his death in 1910.
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