Great Britain and the Commonwealth celebrated in fine style, with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect from our proud nation.
She is today queen regnant of 16 sovereign states, 12 of which were British colonies or Dominions at the start of her reign.
But what is a Jubilee and how did they come to be?
Jubilees go back to Biblical times. The Book of Leviticus says that families should gather every 50 years for a jubilee and restore land to its original owners, remit debts and free slaves. The word comes from the Hebrew for the ram’s horn trumpet (a yobel) that was used to signal its beginning. Since 1300, jubilees have been celebrated every 25 years by the Catholic church.
In the New Testament, Jesus presents himself as the One who brings the old Jubilee to completion, because he has come to “preach the year of the Lord’s favour” (Isaiah 61: 1-2). In the Roman Catholic Church, jubilees began to be celebrated formally in 1300 AD and are years of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation. They are celebrated every 25 years.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee
In 1897 Queen Victoria became the longest reigning Monarch in British history when she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. There was a grand and colourful Jubilee procession through London of Royalty and Military troops from all over the Empire, this Just over three quarters of a century after George III’s Golden Jubilee. At that time she had the unique distinction of being the only king or queen to have reached reach 60 years, and so celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, prior to our current Queen of course.
The celebrations started on June 20 1887 with breakfast under the trees at Frogmore, close to where her husband, Prince Albert, lay in his mausoleum.
Victoria then went by train to Buckingham Palace for a family banquet attended by foreign royals and the governors of Britain’s colonies. Her diary recorded the event: “The table was a large horseshoe one, with many lights on it. The King of Denmark took me in, and Willy of Greece sat on my other side.
“The princes were all in uniform, and the princesses were all beautifully dressed. Afterwards we went into the ballroom, where my band played.”
The next day a procession took her to Westminster Abbey in a gilded carriage drawn by six cream-coloured horses. The evening was taken up with a firework display at Buckingham Palace.
But the true precedent for the current Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is not George III’s or Victoria’s, but her own Silver Jubilee. Then she visited 36 counties in three months (more than any other monarch had ever managed), and the height of the celebrations on June 3 and 4 was marked not only by ceremony in central London but street parties elsewhere in the country.
This year, 2012, Her Majesty visited several Commonwealth countries as well as many regions throught Great Britain and a Central Weekend marked the height of the celebrations on June 3 & 4, with an aditional Bank Holiday for the UK.
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