There have been eight jubilees in British royal history, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd, “and the story has always been the same”. Before the big event “everybody predicts a humiliating fiasco”. Then at the last minute “millions of strange people come crawling out from beneath their rocks”, Union Jacks in hand, and have an absolute blast. The first was George III’s golden jubilee in 1809. It all went tremendously well but proved “something of a last hurrah” for the king himself. He went mad a year later, and “spent the rest of his days endlessly weeping and tying and untying handkerchiefs” – which, incidentally, is how most Guardian columnists will be spending this weekend.
The “Woodstock of royal blowouts” was Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. Conceived as a “Festival of the British Empire”, it involved events “in every corner of the earth, from Ireland and India to Singapore and the Seychelles”. The London parade was “the most spectacular the capital had ever seen” – the Daily Mail proudly declared it “testimony to the GREATNESS OF THE BRITISH RACE”. If that was peak jubilee, the nadir came with the Queen’s silver celebrations in 1977. Inflation was rampant; the economy was in trouble. “The fact that it rained for most of the day rather summed the whole thing up.” Hopefully this week’s festivities will be much more fun. And for those “miserable drips” not into it, some good news: for most of us, given the ages of Charles (73) and William (39), it’ll be the last jubilee of our lifetime.
🇬🇧👑 Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland explore jubilees further in the latest episode of The Rest Is History podcast. Listen here.