Tag Archives: queen elizabeth II

A History Moment: The Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee

This past Monday, February 6th, Queen Elizabeth II of England, my former monarch, celebrated 65 years on the throne. It’s a bittersweet celebration for the Queen since this also marks the 65th anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI. According to the people who determine these things, 65 years is a “sapphire” celebration. The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977 (25 years, and I still remember our street party), her Golden Jubilee in 2002 (50 years), and her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 (60 years). She is, however, the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee. Not even Queen Victoria managed that–she reigned a mere 63-and-some-months years. King George “I-want-my-colonies-back” III just missed his Diamond Jubilee, spending 59 years on the throne. King Henry III (1216-1272) and King Edward III (1327-1377) both achieved Golden Jubilees, which is quite remarkable for monarchs in the middle ages!

A point of interest. Some books cite Queen Elizabeth’s reign as starting in 1953. As I understand it, most monarchs are usually crowned shortly after the death of the previous monarch, so their coronation year usually matches the year the title passed to them (the year of ascension). In Elizabeth’s case, her father died on February 6th, 1952, but she wasn’t actually crowned queen until June 2, 1953. Part of the reason for the 14 month delay was to properly observe a period of national mourning for the dead King. But 14 months seems a long time. Other than allowing time for the extensive preparations (which included the first time a coronation would be televised live), I’m not sure why it took so long. But that’s why some books say she has been queen since 1953–they’re looking at the actual coronation date, not the ascension date. Most historians go with the ascension date, making this year her Sapphire Jubilee year.

Given the Queen is 90 years old, and her mother lived to 101, she might yet get to Platinum (70 years). We’ll see… 🙂

Our “street” (more like “cul-de-sac”) Silver Jubilee party in our
neighbor’s back yard. June, 1977. That’s me in the bottom left corner. 🙂


This weekend there will be celebrations in the UK for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The Commonwealth-wide Jubilee festivities actually began on February 6–the anniversary of Elizabeth’s father’s death–and culminate in the various events going on over this weekend and into next week. This is a particular milestone for the British monarchy since Elizabeth II is only the second British monarch to have lived long enough to see a Diamond Jubilee. Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and went on to rule another three and a half years after that.

I won’t be in the UK to celebrate. Indeed, the last time I was in the UK for a Jubilee was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. It was a long time ago, but I remember it vividly. We lived on a cul-de-sac, and our next door neighbor invited all the kids over to their place. They set out a long table in their back yard and served jelly, ice cream, cakes, and other party food. The yard was decorated with red, white, and blue streamers, and we all got into the spirit of the occasion with our party hats. In fact, here’s a still from a film my dad shot of the event:

That's me near the front in a blue sweater and white hat, pulling a face

There are divided opinions in the UK as to whether they should continue to have a Royal Family. My fascination with British history–especially the monarchy–biases me in favor. But whatever one’s opinion of the monarchy, one thing I have observed about occasions like this: they serve to unite the country. People like a reason to celebrate, especially when times are hard. And no bombs were dropped, no missiles fired, and no enemies gunned down to prompt this outpouring of joy. This is one nation, along with her Commonwealth friends, joining together to raise a glass to a woman who has spent the last sixty years of her life serving her country, often in the midst of difficult circumstances, under incessant public scrutiny. Personally, I think that’s no small achievement.