Royal Celebration Series: 1977, The Silver Jubilee

In 2017, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will have been our queen for 65 years. In reaching this milestone, she will become the first British monarch to reach their Sapphire Jubilee. In a series of blog posts we’re taking a trip down memory lane, recalling key anniversaries and celebrations from The Queen’s reign.

The first installment of our ‘Royal Celebration Series’ was ‘From accession to a Sapphire Jubilee in 2017’. In that article, we looked at what a Jubilee represents and the events surrounding Her Majesty’s accession to the throne and coronation. Here, we’re taking you back to 1977, and the next major public celebration of The Queen’s reign; The Silver Jubilee.

The Silver Jubilee
The Queen visits the Green Faulds area of Glasgow during the Silver Jubilee Tour of Scotland in May 1977.

A Jubilee must always be tinged with sadness for The Queen, as it is also the anniversary of the death of her father, George VI. As such, in the Silver Jubilee year, the anniversary of her accession was a low-key affair commemorated with church services. The Queen herself spent the weekend with her family at Windsor. It wasn’t until the summer of 1977 when the public celebrations began.

The Silver Jubilee celebrations began with a record-breaking tour of the UK, which began in Glasgow in May. Earlier that month, Her Majesty had addressed Parliament to state that the vision for the Silver Jubilee was to be the unity of the nation. True to this vision, millions of spectators lined the streets or attended the many official functions and visits along the way.

Silver Jubilee
Bunting flags and a patriotic banner celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in North London, 1977

Throughout the year, Her Majesty and Prince Philip embarked on many official visits and even a tour of the Commonwealth. They took in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the West Indies and Canada, where they were joined by Prince Charles. All in all the royal party covered around 56,000 miles throughout the Silver Jubilee year, visiting a total of 36 counties in all!

Silver Jubilee
The Queen and Prince Philip with the King and Queen of Tonga in February 1977, during the Silver Jubilee Tour.

June saw widespread national celebration across the UK. The Queen lit a bonfire in Windsor on Monday 6 June, starting a chain reaction of beacons being lit across the nation. An official Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on 7 June was attended by former Prime Ministers of the UK and heads of state around the world. Building on the successful broadcast of Her Majesty’s Coronation, the procession from Westminster Abbey back to Buckingham Palace was also televised to a global audience estimated at around 500 million people! Street parties were then held in villages and towns across the land, as communities came together to take their own personal part in the national celebrations.

The celebratory week closed on 9 June with a ceremonial river procession on the River Thames, echoing the barge trips of Elizabeth I. The Queen then opened the Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank and the Silver Jubilee Walkway. A huge firework display was held as lit carriages carried Her Majesty back to Buckingham Palace, where she was once again greeted by cheering crowds as she waved from the balcony.

Silver Jubilee
The Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth celebrated on the streets of London in 1977

The event was also marked with a commemorative UK coin, struck here at The Royal Mint; The Silver Jubilee crown. Arnold Machin’s design depicts the Ampulla and Anointing Spoon, sacred objects used in the Coronation ceremony for centuries. These are encircled by a floral border and, above them, a Royal Crown. The obverse is Machin’s equestrian portrait of The Queen, seated side-saddle and in uniform, as she would be for the Trooping of the Colour ceremony.

All in all, 1977 was a year of unprecedented royal celebration across the UK. In other news, it was also the year of:

  • One of the biggest news stories of the year was The Yorkshire Ripper, who attacked and murdered a number of women throughout the year. Peter Sutcliffe was finally convicted of his crimes in 1981.
  • The M5 Motorway was officially opened by Prime Minister James Callaghan
  • The No 1 single in June 1977 was….Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About it”, although not without controversy. Also on release at the same time was “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols, which charted in 2nd place that same week. Rumours were rife that the chart was rigged to keep the anti-establishment challenger off the top of the charts in Jubilee month
  • In the wider world of pop, there were definitely tears on many pillows at the sad passing of both Elvis Presley and Marc Bolan. But Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” both brought a bit of joy to the charts. And let’s not forget The Eagle’s “Hotel California”…
  • In film; 1977 may have been a Long Time Ago but, not necessarily In a Galaxy Far, Far Away, it saw the release of Star Wars, thus beginning the most successful film franchise of all time.  In an interesting coincidence, Episode VIII of the series is due for release in December 2017, the year when Her Majesty celebrates her Sapphire Jubilee
  • Key markers of the cost of living, according to the ONS, were:
    • A pint of milk was 11p
    • A pint of beer (or a bottle, at the time) was 38p
    • A litre of petrol  was 18p
    • Tea bags were….not widely used at the time, we still preferred tea leaves and a strainer!

So, both royally and culturally, 1977 was a significant year. We can be sure that 2017 will be too. The Queen will have been on the throne for 65 years – the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee!

Next in our Royal Celebration Series: We will take a look back to the Golden Jubilee, when The Queen celebrated 50 years on the throne in 2002.

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  • John Stokes

    Interesting, thank you.