Royal Jubilees and the Scots Abroad

This year’s Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne marks an important moment not only in the history of the United Kingdom, but also in that of the many countries overseas where, whether officially or unofficially, the Queen is an important public symbol. Republican tendencies there may be in many a place, and words of Scottish independence are often heard at present, but the monarchy remains one of the strongest icons of identity in the wider British World to this day. Moreover, for many Scots abroad loyalty to the crown was a key element of their associational life, toast to Queen or King liberally dispensed at many a St Andrew’s Day dinner or Caledonian Games.

It was in the latter half of the nineteenth century that forms of monarchical ceremonialism were turned into imperial events. On a larger scale this first occurred when Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli orchestrated the 40th anniversary celebrations of Queen Victoria’s reign. Victoria, given her affinity to Scotland, was especially popular with the Scots abroad. In Kaiapoi, New Zealand, a celebration pageant took place, and a procession went through town, including the members of the local Caledonian Society with their ‘handsome banner … headed by Mr D.  M. Marshall (President) and Pipers McLachlan and Collie.’ Similar processions where held throughout the world, with Caledonians usually well represented.  What this highlights is that, by the 1890s, royal jubilees, coronations, funerals, and royal visits had become inherently imperial occasions.

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II will also be celebrated throughout the world. In Australia, Royal Australian Mint has released a 50c uncirculated coin to mark the Jubilee, and a beacon will be lit on Parliament House on 4 June. On Barbados HRH the Earl of Wessex unveiled a commemorative plaque on his recent royal visit, while New Zealand released a special Jubilee emblem. An emblem was also created in Canada, as was a commemorative medal. The medal will be awarded to 60,000  Canadians during the year of celebrations, highlighting that the most extensive celebrations outside of the United Kingdom are taking place in Canada.

Leave a Reply