A History of Royal Jubilees

Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

In 2022, HM The Queen will become the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking seventy years of service. Only a small group of world leaders have achieved this milestone. In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, we look back at the history of royal jubilee celebrations through the ages. 

Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee 1977 portrait by Peter Grugeon ©Woodmansterne /TopFoto

What is a Jubilee?

Jubilees mark a major milestone in the reign of a Monarch, celebrating their life and service. 

The naming of these celebrations follows the traditions of wedding anniversaries: 25 years is called a Silver Jubilee, 50 years a Golden Jubilee, 60 years a Diamond Jubilee, and 70 years a Platinum Jubilee. 

Did you know?

The origins of jubilees are found in the Old Testament where they marked a celebration of 50 years.

History of Jubilees

George III is often credited as the first British monarch to mark a Golden Jubilee (50 years), a tradition followed by Queen Victoria and HM Queen Elizabeth II, (George V celebrated a Silver Jubilee) but a few early British monarchs had reigns of more than fifty years. 

These included King Henry III, Edward III, and James VI and I as king of Scotland. Unfortunately, little is known about how they celebrated their jubilees.

However, the few records that exist reveal some surprising similarities to the present day. Edward III (1327-1377) celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1376 with a spectacular weeklong joust at London’s Smithfield beginning with a magnificent procession from the Tower of London accompanied by trumpeters. 

A portrait of King George III

George III’s Golden Jubilee, 1809

George III (1760-1820) was the first British monarch to mark his Golden Jubilee in a significant way and really began the tradition of national and international celebrations.  

George III celebrated his jubilee on 25 October 1809, the start of the 50th year of his reign, but since the reign of Queen Victoria, Golden Jubilees have been celebrated after the completion of 50 years of service.

The celebrations were a lavish, brilliant, noisy affair with processions, feasts and a 50-gun salute fired from the Tower of London.  A service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral was followed by banquets held in the King’s honour, with food and money provided for the poor so everyone (even those in prison) could partake in the festivities.  

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022 

Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1887

Queen Victoria (1837-1901) had largely withdrawn from public life after the death of Prince Albert, her much loved consort, in 1861. Her Golden Jubilee was seen as an important opportunity to reconnect with the nation. 

Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee over the course of two days, starting with a lavish outdoor breakfast near Prince Albert’s mausoleum at Windsor on 20 June 1887 She then travelled by train to London for a banquet at Buckingham Palace. 

Did you Know?

Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years of her reign.

The following day Victoria processed in an open carriage to Westminster Abbey for a ceremony of thanksgiving. During prayers at the Abbey, a beam of sunlight fell upon her bowed head which observers took as a mark of divine favour. On her return to Buckingham Palace, she appeared on the balcony and was cheered by the crowd. That evening there was another banquet followed by a firework display in the palace garden. 

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897

Ten years later, on 20 June 1897, Queen Victoria became the first British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years of service.  

The day itself was marked privately with a service of thanksgiving at St George's Chapel, Windsor. Two days later, Victoria headed a royal procession through London, beginning at Buckingham Palace.

At St Paul’s Cathedral there was a short service of thanksgiving celebrated outside to spare the 78-year-old Queen, who suffered from arthritis, from having to climb the steps. Crowds of people watched from specially erected stands and thousands more crowded the steps of the Cathedral. 

Did you know?

Victoria was Britain's longest reigning monarch until her record was surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.

Queen Victoria's film debut

Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was a once in a lifetime opportunity for early cinema, with some forty camera operators stationed along the procession route, ready to capture a fleeting glimpse of the Queen for eager audiences in the UK and around the world. The occasion attracted the biggest attendance of the global film industry to date. 

George V Silver Jubilee, 1935

Queen Victoria’s grandson, King George V (1865-1936), celebrated his Silver Jubilee (25 years) on 6 May 1935. It was the first ever celebration of a British monarch’s Silver Jubilee.

The day was declared a public holiday and pageants, fetes, and parties were held in glorious May sunshine.

The King and Queen Mary attended a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral before appearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to cheering crowds. Throughout May, the king and Queen Mary took carriage rides through north London, including one accompanied by their granddaughters, Princess Margaret, and the future Queen Elizabeth II.

Did you Know?

Silver Jubilee commemorative mugs were given to every child born on Jubilee Day, 6 May 1935.

HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, 1977

In 1977 HM The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee, marking twenty-five years of service. The anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession, and the death her father King George VI on 6 February 1952, was commemorated with church services.  

The Silver Jubilee was a major national and international event.  The Queen and HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh travelled some 56,000 miles on a series of jubilee tours that would take in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, before returning to the United Kingdom to visit a total of 36 counties in Scotland, England and Wales. In Lancashire alone, over a million people turned out to see The Queen. The UK tour culminated in Northern Ireland, where she hosted a garden party at Hillsborough Castle

Did you Know?

An estimated 500 million people watched the Jubilee Day procession on television.

The climax of the celebrations came on Jubilee Day, on the 7 June. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh processed in the Gold State Coach to St Paul's Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving. More than 1 million people lined the route, many camping overnight to secure a front row spot.

HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee, 2002 and 2012

In 2002 and 2012 HM Queen Elizabeth II celebrated fifty and sixty years of service.

On her Golden Jubilee, The Queen and Prince Phillip toured the UK and the Commonwealth and held a concert at Buckingham Palace, followed by a spectacular firework display. 

The focus of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations took place once again in the summer. Highlights included the Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pagent, a spectacular flotilla of 1000 boats which travelled from Chelsea to Tower Bridge, led by The Royal Barge, on which the Queen travelled 

Big Jubilee Lunches were held throughout the UK and around the world, attended by an estimated 8.5 million people in the UK alone. On 2 June, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, a 62-gun salute was fired at the Tower of London and elsewhere.

HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, 2022

In 2022, HM The Queen will become the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. In the UK celebrations will take place throughout the year much inspired by jubilees throughout history. The focal point of the celebrations will be the Jubilee Weekend, an extended bank holiday from Thursday 2 June to Sunday 5 June 2022. 

Historic Royal Palaces will celebrate this extraordinary achievement with onsite and online experiences. In March Life Through a Royal Lens will launch at Kensington Palace exploring 200 years of royal photography. At Hampton Court Palace a ‘Jubilee Joust’ will take place over the Jubilee Weekend. 

The centrepiece of our celebrations will be Superbloom’ at the Tower of London, filling the moat with flowers. From June to September, the display will erupt into new colours and patterns creating a dramatic and engaging experience. The Tower’s ‘Superbloom’ is the first stage of a permanent transformation of the moat into a new natural landscape in the heart of the City of London. 

Listen to our Jubilee podcast

In this special podcast episode, we celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a rip-roaring tour of the history of Royal Jubilees. Join Curators Charles Farris, Joanna Marschner and Lee Prosser as they find out what it takes to make an iconic Jubilee celebration.

Download and subscribe via your usual podcast platform or use the links below.

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Crowds gathered together and waving union jack flags
Yeoman Warder looking at blooms of yellow, white and red flowers in the moat.

Tower of London Superbloom

01 June - 18 September

Come and celebrate the Platinum Jubilee year of Her Majesty The Queen at the Tower of London, and see the historic moat transformed into a beautiful new naturalistic landscape. Designed to attract pollinators, insects and seed-eating birds, the flower display will evolve into new colours and scents over the course of the summer creating a wonderful sensory experience for visitors.

Pre-booking essential.

The moat at the Tower of London filled with flowers and visitors, in contrast to the stone battlements and glass skyscrapers of the city. Sunflowers are particularly prevalent in these images, stretching above the field of flowers towards the sun.
Things to see Families

See the Tower of London’s iconic moat as a beautiful, new naturalistic landscape in celebration of HM The Queen's Platinum Jubilee year.

Throughout summer

Tower of London

Separate ticket

The Equanimity/Queen Elizabeth II portrait being hung in a exhibition space.
Things to see Exhibition

Life Through a Royal Lens - a unique exhibition exploring the Royal Family's relationship with the camera.

04 March - 30 October 2022

Kensington Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

SOLD OUT
Events For members

Join Siobhan Clarke at the Banqueting Hall for an exclusive tour of this revolutionary building.

7 August, 2 October and 6 November 2022

Banqueting House

10.00 and 12.00

Separate ticket (advance booking required)

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