What is a royal Jubilee?

A jubilee is a special celebration of a King or Queen’s reign. They take place after the monarch has ruled for a certain number of years and each one is associated with a different type of precious material. 

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No other British monarch reigned for long enough to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee which is why the 2022 celebrations for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II were so special.


How do people celebrate Jubilees?


Although Jubilees have been celebrated since the 1300s there are very few records of how early Kings and Queens celebrated. By the 19th century events to mark the Golden Jubilees of George III and Queen Victoria included fetes, feasts, fireworks and processions. Below you can see a photograph from Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee parade in the late 1890s.

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Elizabeth II celebrated her silver jubilee (25 years) in 1977. Like previous monarchs the celebrations included feasts and fireworks. Her Majesty went on a tour of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, travelling  56,000 miles throughout the year. A series of beacons (big bonfires) were lit across the country and there was a procession in which Her Majesty rode in her Gold State Coach to St Paul’s Cathedral. Back at Buckingham Palace she, and the Royal family, appeared on the balcony for the crowds below.

Footage courtesy of The Royal Family


Street parties and village parties started up all over the country: in London alone 4,000 were reported to have been held. These often included fancy dress competitions and games like tug of war. Her Majesty also started a trust which donated over £80m to charity.


Footage courtesy of The Royal Family


On her Golden Jubilee in 2002 Elizabeth II and Prince Philip once again set out on a tour of the UK and the Commonwealth to meet as many people as possible. This time the procession was followed by a pop concert at Buckingham Palace and a spectacular display of fireworks. Beacons were also lit this time not just across the UK but in many countries around the world.


Footage courtesy of The Royal Family


The Diamond jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012 was marked by yet another tour. This time Her Majesty and Prince Philip stayed in the UK with members of her family representing her abroad. A ‘big lunch’ initiative was started to encourage people to share lunch with neighbours and friends and once again many people held street parties. Her Majesty and Prince Philip travelled up the Thames on a barge and, as in previous years, beacons were lit around the world. To echo her Golden Jubilee celebrations another concert was held at Buckingham Palace.


Footage courtesy of The Royal Family


During a jubilee year many manufacturers make souvenirs of the event for people to keep and collect. Some are made for people to buy and others are given to school children or to the military or emergency services in recognition of their hard work. Popular souvenirs include stamps, tea towels, mugs, spoons and of course coins and medals.

Below you can see some of the official coins and medals made by the Royal Mint to celebrate the different Jubilees. Which one is your favourite?


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Did you know?

Many of the celebrations that surrounded the jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II were based on events that took place during the reign of Elizabeth I over 400 years ago. The beacons in particular are lit to commemorate the ones that may have been used as an early warning system when the Spanish Armada appeared off the coast of England in the 1500s. They had arrived with the intention of invading the country and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I but were ultimately unsuccessful.

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