Celebrating the British Monarchy
To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II,
The Map House has put togther a unique collection of Royal ephemera and memorabilia.
Royal celebrations commemorate significant periods in a monarch’s reign and their national life. The current tribute to
Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne is no exception. Like her predecessors, the reigning monarch has represented the
matriarch of an empire unprecedented in size, power and prosperity. As a symbol of unity between all of the countries
in the common wealth she encourages a mass sentiment of delight and respect which can be difficult to
find in current leadership and politics.
The celebration of the sovereign’s jubilee years began with King George III.
At the beginning of his fiftieth year on the throne events were held in both Britain and its colonies.
The King attended a private service in Windsor followed by 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.
The longest reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, celebrated her Golden Jubilee on 20th and 21st June1887.
This was very much the first jubilee spectacular. The Queen, taking a great interest in her Empire, desired aspects of
each corner of the commonwealth to be represented in a huge procession that advanced through the streets of London.
Bodies of soldiers from numerous countries marched past the spectators, who were accommodated on terraced benches along
10 miles of scaffolding. These can partly be seen in the wood engraving above. Queen Victoria rode through the
procession in her gilded state landau, drawn by six horses. She refused to wear a crown, wearing instead a
bonnet and a long dress.
Such a spectacular event was considered a marvel in the eyes of those that had never seen anything like it.
The excitement and enjoyment of such a unique experience led quickly to a market and a desire for souvenirs.
Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee unmistakably opened the floodgates to promotion and production.
The keepsake plate in our collection is a perfect example of this.
Commemorative souvenirs have been a popular way of marking Royal events such as
coronation’s, weddings and Jubilee’s ever since.
In the June of 1897 London celebrated the sixtieth year of Queen Victoria’s reign. Desiring to repeat the successful
celebrations of her 50th year on the throne, civil servants and politicians devised an event to mark the fact that her
reign had surpassed the length of any other in British history.
Since there was no tradition of sixtieth anniversaries, a list of possible names was assembled from which
Victoria chose, ‘Diamond Jubilee’. The highlight of the festivities was on June 22nd, when British and colonial troops,
visiting dignitaries, and the royal family, once again proceeded through the streets of London.
This photolithograph, published by the Illustrated London news, marks the view of the Royal procession.
The First World War had seen the toppling of monarchies all over Europe and even though the king's relationship
with some of the colonies had changed, this embroidered map on silk is representative of the resilience of the
Empire and its sovereign. Represented here is the British Empire at its furthermost.In 1935, King George V
celebrated his Silver Jubilee as an occasion of great public rejoicing.
He had come to embody diligence and duty, seen as a man that sought to represent his subjects, and support his country.
Admired by the public for his effort during the War, the celebration was a great occasion to be remembered.
This was sadly followed closely with his death in 1936 and the break out of War again in 1939.
The coronation of George VI in May 1937 was not one that had been expected a year earlier.
The throne’s status was shaken by his brother’s abdication, and on many of the banners and souvenirs
the monogram ER changed to G & E. The British Empire had been shocked but now rallied to make the procession of
King George VI and Elizabeth, his queen, utterly awe-inspiring. In anticipation there were even people
sleeping overnight in Whitehall. As can be seen from this tourist route plan published specifically for the occasion,
the procession started from Buckingham Palace and headed over to Westminster Abbey. The royal reception then took an
anti clockwise route through the city.
Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on the 2nd June 1953 with a route different to
the one taken by her father. Hers, clockwise up Whitehall from the Abbey, then left rather than
right at the top of St. James’s. The Queen decided to make her return not down Constitution Hill, but Pall Mall. A possible
reasoning is that it was the first televised coronation. Cameras were requested specifically for the roof of Buckingham Palace to
obtain the best shots, creating on her return a triumphal visual climax.
The Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, as with any royal commemoration, has become a civic ritual illustrating a
celebration of nationalism. Not just in London, but in towns and villages throughout England and around the world.
Such events help reinforce the soverigns role as a focus for national identity and unity as people from across the Commonwealth,
come together to mark an important occasion for their head of state.
The crown represents a people democratic with its tastes and standards, the spirit and the affections of its social life,
the dignity and ceremony of its common institutions, and the memories and associations that pass from one generation to the next.