Women Who Ruled: Queen Victoria, part 16

Only four British monarchs before Queen Victoria had reigns of fifty years or more: King James VI of Scotland and I of England (57 years), King Henry III (56), King Edward III (50), and King George III (59 years) who was Victoria’s grandfather. In 1887 the fifty year anniversary of Victoria’s ascension to the throne was celebrated with a two-day Golden Jubilee. 

She began the day with breakfast outside at Frogmore, the estate were her beloved husband Prince Albert was buried. Then she took a private train to Buckingham Palace. A banquet hosting fifty kings and princes was held in Victoria’s honor, followed by a ten mile royal procession the next day. Fireworks finished off the evening. This was a time of renewed popularity for the aging monarch, and the celebrations and cheering crowds lifted her spirits. 

She employed two Muslim Indian waiters from the festivities to work in her household. One of them was Abdul Karim, a scholar she promoted to be her Munshi, a Persian word adapted by British colonials for a language tutor domestic servant or Indian personal secretary. Rumors circulated that Karim like John Brown before him had an inappropriate relationship with the queen. Victoria brushed off such complaints as racial prejudice. 

In September 1896 Victoria became the then longest reigning monarch. She asked that no special commeration of that fact be observed until her Diamond Jubilee, or sixty year reign anniversary, the following year. The Diamond Jubilee was a somewhat smaller celebration owing the Queen’s deteriorating health. A six mile procession culminated in an outdoor service in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, to spare the monarch climbing the steps into the church. Still there were crowds of supporters cheering for her. 

This time the banquet guests were the prime ministers of self-governing dominions of the British Empire, rather than foreign heads of state. Victoria’s eldest child Vicky had become widowed only 99 days after her husband became King of Germany and Prussia. Victoria’s hot-headed 29 year old grandson Wilhelm was now the ruler of those nations, and he was not trusted to behave at such a gathering  

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