In 2017, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will have been our Queen for 65 years. She will become the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee.
In our Royal Celebration blog series we have reviewed the events surrounding The Queen’s Accession to the throne in 1952, the celebrations for her Silver Jubilee in 1977 and Golden Jubilee in 2002. Now we take a look at some more recent history; The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. A reign of 60 years is a significant achievement; only one previous monarch has reached this milestone. In celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II emulated her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Jubilant is a great word to describe 2012 in the UK. Two major international events dominated our summer; The Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The nation was gripped by patriotic fervour, and the country seemed to be painted red, white and blue throughout the summer.
The two events became intertwined; the public celebrations of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee creating a wave that flowed into the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, Danny Boyle’s ‘Isles of Wonder’. This spectacular show reflected on the things that make Britain great, from the Industrial Age to the creation of the internet, taking in the NHS and pop culture. Much of this progress had been made during The Queen’s 60 year reign. The show even featured an appearance by Her Majesty herself, in the company of one of our other great cultural icons, James Bond.
‘Isles of Wonder’ was a fanfare of Britishness, capturing the imagination and inspiring people across the land. The athletes who competed on behalf of Team GB maintained that surge of positivity, beating their own forecasts to end the games in 3rd place behind the powerhouses of the USA and China. Records were broken, reputations blossomed, heroes made.
Here at The Royal Mint we played our own part in the Games, manufacturing all 4,700 of the gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the Games. We also released 29 different 50p coins into circulation, each representing an Olympic sport and designed by a member of the public, . They proved very popular; young and old alike joined the #coinhunt to collect them from their change. The #coinhunt was yet another example of the level of public participation in the celebrations of 2012, events which began earlier in the year with The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The Diamond Jubilee marked the 60th anniversary of 6 February 1952, when Her Majesty became our queen. This was also the date her father passed away, and is a day The Queen usually spends privately. In 2012, Accession Day was marked with a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London, a 41-gun salute in a snowy Hyde Park and a 21-gun salute at Edinburgh Castle. The Queen broke with tradition to attend a number of public events close to her Sandrigham Estate in Norfolk. These included a visit to a primary school where pupils put on a 15 minute musical play covering some of the changes that have taken place during her reign.
The sense of progress during those six decades was also reflected in a message that The Queen released on 6 February 2012:
“I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952, and to look forward to the future with a clear head and warm heart as we join together in our celebrations”
As with her previous Jubilees, it was important for The Queen to be able to join in the celebrations. This public participation included the development of the official logo for the jubilee celebrations, which was created by ten year old Kathryn Dewar in a competition held by the BBC children’s’ programme, Blue Peter. We were even given an extra day off to enjoy the festivities! An extra bank holiday was announced for 5 June, and the Spring Bank Holiday Monday moved to 4 June, to create a four day weekend for the core Diamond Jubilee Celebration Weekend.
Much like the Silver Jubilee, that weekend was marked with a river pageant that saw around 1,000 craft accompany the Royal Barge down the Thames. Despite the awful weather, crowds lined the banks to catch a glimpse of the largest number of craft seen on the river for 350 years.
The tradition of street parties taking place across the land continued with the ‘Big Jubilee Lunch’. Friends, neighbours and communities came together to share lunch as part of the celebrations. Then, on the Monday, Buckingham Palace once again opened its gates to the public celebrations. 10,000 people enjoyed an afternoon picnic followed by the ‘Diamond Jubilee Concert’. The likes of Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Elton John and Stevie Wonder entertained the 10,000-strong crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace.
Prince Philip was unfortunately hospitalised with a bladder infection earlier in the day, but Her Majesty attended the concert nonetheless. The evening came to a close with a warm and emotional address from Prince Charles. He paid tribute to his mother but also asked the assembled crowds to cheer so loudly that his father “…might just be able to hear us in hospital”. His request was met by huge applause!
After the concert, Her Majesty lit the National Beacon, continuing the chain of beacons that had been lit across the Commonwealth. Poignantly, a beacon was lit at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya. It was here, on 6 February 1952, that the young Princess Elizabeth had been told the sad news of the death of her father, George VI. 60 years later, over 2,000 beacons were lit across the length and breadth of the UK, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands in recognition of her dedication and loyalty.
2012 was truly a Great British year. Now, just five years later, in 2017 we turn our attentions to a landmark event in British history, as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first British monarch to celebrate 65 years on the throne. The first Sapphire Jubilee in our history.