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The Reign of Queen Victoria by  M. B. Synge


 

 

THE QUEEN'S JUBILEE

[158] VICTORIA had been proclaimed Queen of Great Britain on June 20, 1837. Now she was Queen of more than Great Britain, for the ever-increasing commerce and colonization had brought new lands under her sway.

It was fitting that her Jubilee in 1887 should be celebrated by representatives gathered from all parts of the Empire, as well as by royal princes from the courts of Europe. Three times only in the whole of England's history had a sovereign reigned for fifty years; never in the annals of any country had there been such enthusiastic rejoicings over such an event.

This was due to some extent to the Queen's own personality and character. She had given her whole life and strength for her people; no subject had ever been too large, no detail too small, for her close attention. Her work had increased in proportion to the increase of her possessions.

The great day, June 21, 1887, dawned. The streets of London were lavishly decorated; no pains were spared to make the great centre of the Empire—the largest city in the world—as gay and bright as possible. Early in the morning trains poured people into London from outlying parts. Such crowds had never been seen before, for since the coronation and marriage of Victoria railways, [159] steamers, penny post, and telegraphy had made communication possible, and within the reach of all. Every window along the route was filled, every balcony and gallery contained eager spectators of the royal procession, flags flew from tower and steeple—London was keeping festive holiday.

At eleven o'clock the great procession started from Buckingham Palace, and cheer upon cheer rose from the dense waiting masses. The first part of the procession consisted of carriages full of foreign kings and princes; there were Indian princes, too, in cloth of gold, their turbans blazing with diamonds and precious stones. A body of Life Guards preceded the royal carriages containing the Queen's married daughters and granddaughters; these were followed by a brilliant escort of royal princes, riding on horseback, seventeen in number, including her three sons, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Duke of Connaught.

There were already two gaps in the royal family since the death of the Prince Consort—the Duke of Albany and the much beloved Princess Alice. Amid the royal escort rode the Queen's five sons-in-law, the Crown Prince of Germany being the central figure of the group in dazzling white uniform with silver helmet.

There too rode Prince Christian, Prince Henry of Battenberg, the Grand Duke of Hesse, the Marquis of Lorne, and the three grandsons, Prince Albert Victor (heir to the throne), Prince George of Wales, and Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein.

[160] The appearance of the Queen's carriage, drawn by the famous cream-coloured horses, was the signal for a tremendous outburst of cheering, which was kept up continuously along the route till Westminster Abbey was reached. With the Queen drove her eldest daughter, the Crown Princess of Germany, and her daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales.

A short and simple thanksgiving service took place: the Queen sat in the old chair of Edward the Confessor, in which fifty years before she had been crowned as a young untried girl.

The enthusiasm that greeted her return from the Abbey was one long triumph—a triumph well earned and quietly accepted by the Queen of England.

"The enthusiastic reception I met with . . . has touched me most deeply," she said in a letter of thanks to her subjects some days later. "It has shown that the labour and anxiety of fifty long years, twenty-two of which I spent in unclouded happiness, shared and cheered by my beloved husband, while an equal number were full of sorrows and trials borne without his sheltering arm and wise help, have been appreciated by my people. This feeling and the sense of duty toward my dear country and subjects, who are so inseparably bound up with my life, will encourage me in my task, often a very difficult and arduous one, during the remainder of my life."


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