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The Jubilees Of Queen Victoria
by [?]

In the year 1887 came a great occasion in the life of England’s queen, that of the fiftieth anniversary of her reign, a year of holiday and festivity that extended to all quarters of the world, for the broad girdle of British dominion had during her reign extended to embrace the globe. India led the way, the rejoicing over the royal jubilee of its empress extending throughout its vast area, from the snowy passes of the Himalayas on the north to the tropic shores of Cape Comorin on the south. Other colonies joined in the festivities, the loyal Canadians vieing with the free-hearted Australians, the semi-bronzed Africanders and the planters of the West Indies, in the celebration of the joyous anniversary year.

In the history of England there have been only four such jubilees, the earlier ones being those of Henry III., Edward III., and George III. It is a curious coincidence that of these three sovereigns preceding Victoria whose reigns extended over fifty years, each of them was the third of his name. Victoria broke the rule in this as well as in the breadth and splendor of the jubilee display and rejoicings. To show this a few lines must be devoted to these earlier occasions.

The reign of Henry III. was memorable as being that in which trial by jury was introduced and the first real English Parliament, that summoned by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, was held. It was this that gives eclat to the jubilee year, 1265, for it was in that year that the first Parliament convened. Yet sorrow rather than rejoicing marked the year, for the horrors of civil war rent the land and the bloody battle of Evesham saddened all loyal souls.

The jubilee of Edward III. came in 1376, when that monarch entered the fiftieth year of his reign. This was a year fitted for rejoicing, for the age was one of glory and prosperity. The horrors of the “black death,” which had swept the land some twenty years before, were forgotten and men were in a happy mood. We read of tournaments, processions, feasts and pageantry in which all the people participated. Yet sorrow came before the year ended, for the death of the “Black Prince,” the most brilliant hero of chivalry, was sorely mourned by his father, the king, and by the subjects of the realm, while the rising clouds of civil war threw a gloom on the end of the jubilee year, as they had on that of Henry.

More than four centuries elapsed before another jubilee year arrived, that of George III., the fiftieth year of whose reign came in 1810. It was a year of festivities that spread widely over the land, the people entering into it with all the Anglo-Saxon love of holiday. In addition to the grand state banquets, splendid balls, showy reviews and general illuminations, there were open-air feasts free to all, at which bullocks were roasted whole, while army and navy deserters were pardoned, prisoners of war set free, and a great subscription was made for the release from prison of poor debtors.

Yet there was little in the character of the king or the state of the country to justify these festivities. England was then in the throes of its struggle with Napoleon; the king had lost his reason, the Prince of Wales acting as regent; the only reason for rejoicing was that the inglorious career of George III. seemed nearing its end. Yet he survived for ten years more, not dying until 1820, and surpassing all predecessors in the length of his reign.

When, in the year 1887, Queen Victoria reached the fiftieth year of her reign, there were none of these causes for sorrow in her realm. England was in the height of prosperity, free from the results of blighting pestilence, disastrous wars, desolating famine, or any of the horrors that steep great nations in heart-breaking sorrow. The empire was immense in extent, prosperous in all its parts, and the queen was beloved throughout her wide dominions as no monarch of England had ever been before. Thus it was a year in which the people could rejoice without a shadow to darken their joy and with warm love for their queen to make their hilarity a real instead of a simulated one.