June 20 1887 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne.
A calendar of celebrations is prepared to commemorate the occasion, culminating in a banquet which is attended by 50 European kings and princes along with political figures from Britain’s overseas territories.
Queen Victoria is the last British monarch to come from the House of Hanover. Her son, Edward VII, belongs to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha – the line of his father, Albert. Victoria’s reign – the ‘Victorian era’ – lasts 63 years, during which time Britain sees industrial, cultural and political changes. Her reign is characterised by the staunch personal morals that she values, as well as an expansion of Britain’s overseas empire (Victoria is quoted as saying that “if we are to maintain our position as a first-rate power, we must be prepared for attacks and wars, somewhere or other, continually”, although she viewed the expansion of Britain’s empire as benign and supportive, rather than as aggressive and encroaching).
Victoria’s popularity undulates throughout her reign. For example, the years after her husband Albert’s death see Victoria withdraw into a state of secluded mourning. Her popularity starts to suffer as a result of her lack of public appearances during this time, but positive public sentiment towards the Queen returns as her reign continues. The Golden Jubilee celebrations – and the public engagement in those celebrations – serve to highlight the cementing of Victoria’s status as a true national icon.
She goes on to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee a decade later in 1897, becoming the nation’s longest-reigning monarch in the process (overtaking her grandfather, George III, though Queen Elizabeth II has since surpassed Victoria).