Ten momentous years had passed since the Jubilee procession of 1887. The Queen had now reigned for sixty years—longer than any other British sovereign had reigned before her. She was an old lady, and the heavy burden of empire was beginning to tell severely upon her. But even she was probably not prepared for the great unrehearsed feature of this Jubilee celebration, the hearty recognition and spontaneous outburst that greeted the representatives of the great self-governing colonies beyond the seas.
It had been the work of Mr. Chamberlain, a prominent statesman of the latter part of the Victorian era, to invite the Premiers of the colonies to come over and take part in the Jubilee festivities. With one accord they accepted and came, many of them now paying their first visit to the British Isles, to show allegiance to the aged Sovereign who was their acknowledged head.
Once more, as heretofore, the foreign lands sent representatives. Austria sent her heir-apparent; Germany, France, Russia, Spain, Italy, all sent envoys; indeed, no fewer than fifty foreign lands were represented, and many gorgeous gifts in silver and gold were showered on the Queen.
Let us recall the vast procession, a mile and a half in length, in order to realize the importance of the Queen's scattered realms. Preceded by a hundred men of the Royal Navy, rode detachments of Life Guards, Horse Artillery, Dragoons, Hussars, Lancers, and the Imperial Service Troops (raised by the native princes of India for the defence of the Empire). Then came sixteen carriages, containing the royal princesses, children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the Queen.
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.
The enthusiasm of the day was reserved for the colonial detachment, headed by a band of the Royal Horse Guards. First, with a contingent of Canadian Cavalry and Canadian Mounted Police, came the Premier of the Dominion of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. They were closely followed by troops from New South Wales, with the Premier, G. Reid; from Victoria, with the Premier, Sir George Turner; from Queensland, with the Premier, Sir Hugh Nelson; from South Australia, with C. C. Kingston; and West Australia, with Sir John Forrest; from Tasmania, with Sir E. Braddon; from New Zealand, with Hon. R. Seddon; from the Cape of Good Hope, with Sir Gordon Sprigg.
Almost startling in its ecstasy was the reception of these sons of Britain.
These cheers had hardly died away when the Indian princes followed, with a dazzling escort of Bengal Cavalry and Lancers, Punjab Cavalry, Bombay, and other local forces of the Crown.
Nor were the smaller colonies unrepresented. There were militia and artillery from Malta, Trinidad Field Artillery and Infantry, the little Borneo Dyak Police with their English officers, Jamaica Artillery in their uniforms of scarlet with white facings, police from Sierra Leone, Royal Niger and Gold Coast Hausas, detachments from Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements.
Cheer upon cheer rose and fell on the air, till at last the royal carriage and the cream-coloured horses came in sight, and, escorted by her two sons on horseback, the Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII) and the Duke of Connaught, the aged Queen, bowed with the burden of her seventy-nine years, came before her delighted subjects.
Then their loyalty and affection burst forth unrestrained; a very roar of applause greeted her triumphal progress through the streets of London. Her character and the wonderful progress which had marked the sixty years of her reign combined to produce in her people that which might well force the tears to her eyes.
But beyond this personal note there was another we shall do well to understand.
When the Queen came to the throne the monarchy was insecure. At the Diamond Jubilee the people of Britain realized that it was stronger than it had ever been before. This was due partly to the failure of the various republics to realize perfection, partly to the Queen's wise consent to the democratic demands, which served to strengthen the monarchy and increase the people's confidence in their sovereign, partly to an almost unconscious growth of the imperial spirit.
Slowly, during the long years, the people had been realizing that the throne of Britain stood at the centre, not only of a kingdom, but of a world-wide Empire, and the pride of sovereignty had entered into their very hearts. For in this world-wide Empire of theirs there was wealth, there was trade, there were careers, there was a new element of hope for all.
"From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them."
These simple words—the thanks of a mother to her children—were flashed to every corner of the Empire on this royal day, while wire and cable alike carried congratulations to her, who was the centre of an admiring world.
Over 2,000 beacons that evening sped the glad news from hill to hill over the British Isles.
And so the greatest day perhaps in the whole Victorian era drew to its close.