22nd June 1897

Guernsey celebrated Queen Victoria’s jubilee

Queen Victoria came to the throne on 20 June 1837. However, her 60th jubilee was marked two days late – on the 22nd. This wasn’t only in Guernsey, either, but right across the Empire.

To celebrate the event, almost every St Peter Port street had a triumphal arch, along with bunting and illuminations. One house had even hung out a flag of the Royal Standard. On it had been sewn “This flag was made for and stepped upon by the Queen when landing in Guernsey in 1846”.

A cavalcade of between 1.5 and two miles had been planned. Many of the island’s most important industries were represented in the procession.

Figures from Guernsey’s past – and beyond

Reporting on the plans the day before the celebration, The Star listed scissor grinders, aerated water manufacturers, hardware dealers and printers among those who would feature. They were to be joined by less traditional cast members, including cowboys, snake charmers, peasants and even William the Conqueror.

This latter inclusion may have been a little insensitive. Although Victoria’s line can be traced back through more than 20 generations to William, he was ultimately responsible for Britain’s defeat in the Battle of Hastings. By the time Victoria had spent 60 years on the throne, Britain liked to think itself largely unbeatable, with an Empire on which “the sun never set”.

However, for Guernsey it was also entirely appropriate. At the time he invaded Britain, William was the king of Normandy – and of the Channel Islands. Thus, as is asserted by Ebenezer Le Page, it could be said that mainland Britain is a possession of the Channel Islands, not the opposite.

Guernsey’s cavalcade

The 1.5 to 2 mile-long parade was in three sections, with a band between each one. It started at St Sampson and worked its way to Glategny Esplanade, taking 40 minutes to pass any point on the route. Several members of the procession carried slaughtered sheep, which would be distributed to the poor after the event.

The weather on the day itself had not started well, but it improved. Guernsey woke up in a fog thick enough to delay the mail boats’ arrivals. Fortunately, though, this was burned off by the sun, allowing locals to tour St Peter Port, admiring the decorations. At noon, a Royal Salute of 60 guns – one for each year of Victoria’s reign – was fired from Castle Cornet.

Appropriately, the evening’s celebrations centred on Albert Pier, named after Victoria’s late husband. They included bands, illuminations, fireworks and bonfires. Fires were also lit on Jethou and Crevichon, where they would be visible from Town.

One of the fires was set out to resemble the face of Margaret Neve. At 106, she was then the oldest woman on Guernsey and, it was thought, the world.

The event was of such note that The Star even advertised the specific layout of the issue it was planning to produce to cover it: “On Thursday The Star will contain from 6 to 7 extra columns of matter including a Complete Description of Jubilee Day in London… embellished with Three Single Column, Two Double Column and One Three Column Illustrations”.

Victoria remained on the throne until her death in 1901.


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