Photograph of some of the 1897 Diamond Jubilee celebrations

Explore how people celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee the length and breadth of the Empire

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A nation celebrates

London’s Jubilee celebrations continued beyond the official holiday on 22 June 1897.

On 24 June 1897, across the city, some 300,000 poor people were treated to Jubilee dinners, a project organised by the Princess of Wales. With her husband and daughters the Princess visited four of these dinners, including one for crippled children held at the People’s Palace in east London. 

A few weeks later a much more lavish and exclusive entertainment was held by the Duchess of Devonshire for her wealthy and aristocratic friends at her London home, Devonshire House on Piccadilly. 

The Duchess’s fancy dress ball, in which the guests wore elaborate and carefully researched historic costumes was the social event of the season. 

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London wasn’t the only place to enjoy Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Up and down the country communities however big or small organised festivities to mark the occasion. Streets were decorated with triumphal arches, flags and bunting. Children were presented with Jubilee mugs and medals and the elderly were given tea for the women and tobacco for the men. 

A whole range of celebrations was organised from cycle races, parades and cricket matches, to teas, banquets and ox roastings and fireworks and the lighting of Jubilee beacons. 

In the coastal town of Gorleston in Norfolk they roasted an ox on the beach for everyone to enjoy.  Brampton, near Carlisle, had a May Day procession, Cowes had a Royal Pierrot Banjo band, men in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire took part in a cigar and umbrella cycle race, in Swansea the fete in Victoria Park included tightrope walkers who had a picnic while in mid air, at Holm Lacy Park near Hereford entertainments included donkey races and an old ladies’ race, in Padiham, Lancashire they released a balloon in the shape of the queen from the church tower and in Middlesborough they finished the day’s celebrations with an impressive fireworks display including a fire portrait of the Queen. 

Eccentric English Victorian Jubilee celebrations

An Empire celebrates

The Diamond Jubilee was celebrated across the Empire as well. 

An earthquake in Calcutta meant illuminations and other elements of celebration for the Jubilee had to be abandoned but special services of thanksgiving were held, even though the cathedral was closed and a dinner for 5,000 poor was held.

Across India 19,000 convicts were granted a pardon. In Sydney the famous harbour was the setting for elaborate illuminations on the night of 22 June 1897. In the tiny settlement of Moose Jaw, Canada, the local militia processed through the town while children sang patriotic songs including the British National Anthem and The Maple Leaf. Canada chose the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee to release its first set of commemorative stamps. Statues of Victoria were unveiled in Port Said, Egypt and Kingston, Jamaica. 

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Discover more about Queen Victoria in Victoria Revealed, a new permanent exhibition which explores the life and reign of one of the palace’s most famous residents in her own words.

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