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Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Tale of Two Jubilees

Just in case you missed it, this is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year and lots of celebrations are planned. Only one other British monarch, Queen Victoria, has celebrated their Diamond Jubilee. Queen Victoria’s reign was from 1837 to 1901: the longest for the United Kingdom to date. Third place in the ‘royal stakes’ goes to Victoria’s grandfather, George III, who was crowned king in 1760 and died in 1820. There were many celebrations for Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, even though the queen had been unpopular for a time following her virtual retirement from public life after the death of her beloved Alfred, the Prince Consort.
A major landmark of Victoria’s reign was the Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations at the Crystal Palace in 1851. But for ordinary people, perhaps the introduction of the Elementary Education Act in 1870 (which enshrined in law the principle that all children aged five to twelve years old should attend school) had a more lasting impact.
I think the most memorable event of our Queen’s reign was the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. But great strides have taken place in medicine, too, such as the eradication of smallpox. It’s hard to say what will be viewed by future generations as the most significant event of Her Majesty’s reign. Perhaps the invention of the world wide web? What do you think?

Images: The Coronation of Queen Victoria. Cassell’s Illustrated History of England Volume VII, (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, c. 1873).
Cover of Queen Victoria and Her People, (Educational Supply Association Ltd, 1897). This positively hagiographic biography of Victoria was a Diamond Jubilee souvenir for schoolchildren. Both images from the author’s collection.

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