Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II

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The Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the thrones of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth realms. It was celebrated with large-scale parties and parades throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth throughout 1977, culminating in June with the official "Jubilee Days," held to coincide with the Queen's Official Birthday. The anniversary date itself was commemorated in church services across the land on 6 February 1977, and continued throughout the month. In March, preparations started for large parties in every major city of the United Kingdom, as well as for smaller ones for countless individual streets throughout the country.

National and international goodwill visits[edit]

No monarch before Queen Elizabeth II had visited more of the United Kingdom in such a short span of time (the trips lasted three months). All in all, the Queen and her husband Prince Philip visited a total of 36 counties. The trip started with record crowds gathering to see the Royals in Glasgow on 17 May. After moving to England (where a record one million spectators came to greet the couple in Lancashire) and Wales, the Queen and Prince Philip wrapped up the first of their trips with a visit to Northern Ireland. Among the places visited during the national trips were numerous schools, which were the subject of a television special hosted by presenter Valerie Singleton.

Later in the summer, the Queen and Prince Philip embarked on a Commonwealth visit that first brought them to island nations such as Fiji and Tonga, following up with longer stints in New Zealand and Australia, with a final stop in Papua New Guinea before going on to the British holdings in the West Indies. The final stop on the international tour was a trip to Canada, in which Prince Charles joined the couple to greet the crowds.

June celebrations in London[edit]

On 6 June, the Queen lit a bonfire beacon at Windsor Castle, the light of which spread across the night in a chain of other beacons throughout the whole country. On 7 June, crowds lined the route of the procession to St Paul's Cathedral, where the royal family attended a Service of Thanksgiving alongside many world leaders, including United States President Jimmy Carter, and Prime Minister James Callaghan as well as all of the living former Prime Ministers (Harold Macmillan, The Lord Home of the Hirsel, Sir Harold Wilson and Edward Heath). The service was followed by lunch in the Guildhall, hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City of London Peter Vanneck. At the reception, the Queen was quoted as saying,

“ When I was twenty-one I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God's help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it. ”

Elaborate street parties were thrown across the country, like this one in Plymouth.

After the luncheon, the procession including the royals continued down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where an estimated one million people lined the pavements to see the family wave to onlookers. A further 500 million people around the Commonwealth watched the day's events on live television. 7 June was the day that streets and villages threw elaborate parties for all their residents, to honour the Queen and their country's rich history. Many streets strung bunting (the little flags were usually modelled in pattern after the Union Flag) from rooftop to rooftop across the street. In addition to parties, many streets decorated motor vehicles as historical events from Britain's past, and drove them about town, organising their very own parades. In London alone there were over 4000 organised parties for individual streets and neighbourhoods. Throughout the entire day, onlookers were greeted by the Queen many times as she made several appearances for pictures from her balcony.

On 9 June, the Queen made a Royal Progress trip via boat down the River Thames from Greenwich to Lambeth, in a re-enactment of the famous progresses taken by Queen Elizabeth I. On the trip, the Queen opened the Silver Jubilee Walkway and the South Bank Jubilee Gardens officially, two of numerous places named after the festivities. In the evening, the Queen presided over a fireworks display and was taken subsequently by a procession of lighted carriages to Buckingham Palace, where she greeted onlookers yet again from her balcony.

The Jubilee in popular culture[edit]

Before, during, and after the events of Jubilee, the event was addressed in many media of popular culture throughout the Commonwealth.

The most infamous event marking the Jubilee was the Sex Pistols' release of the vehement anti-monarchy song "God Save the Queen." The song is still often claimed to be an attack on the royal family, as it was also an attack on the British government, who in the lyrics are referred to as a "fascist regime" who made the English people into a moron.[citation needed] The song is often misinterpreted also as an attack on the UK as a nation, although in reality it is more an attack on the poor quality of most UK citizens' lives, which is why the original title of the song was "No Future", and the lyrics calls for an end to "England's dreaming," as there is (according to the song) no real future for most people in the UK.[citation needed]

On 7 June, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and the record label Virgin arranged to charter a private boat and have the Sex Pistols perform while sailing down the River Thames, passing Westminster Pier and the Houses of Parliament. The event, a mockery of the Queen's river procession planned for two days later, ended in chaos. Police launches forced the boat to dock, and constabulary surrounded the gangplanks at the pier. While the band members and their equipment were hustled down a side stairwell, McLaren, Vivenne Westwood, and many of the band's entourage were arrested.

"God Save the Queen" was originally titled "No Future", but was changed to coincide with the 1977 Jubilee


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With the official UK record chart for Jubilee week about to be released, the Daily Mirror predicted that "God Save the Queen" would be number one. As it turned out, the record placed second, behind a Rod Stewart single in its fourth week at the top. Many believed that the record had actually qualified for the top spot, but that the chart had been rigged to prevent a spectacle. McLaren later claimed that CBS Records, which was distributing both singles, told him that the Sex Pistols were actually outselling Stewart two to one. There is evidence that an exceptional directive was issued by the British Phonographic Institute, which oversaw the chart-compiling bureau, to exclude sales from record-company operated shops such as Virgin's for that week only.

The soap opera Coronation Street wrote an elaborate Jubilee parade into the storyline, having Rovers' Return Inn manageress Annie Walker dress up in elaborate costume as Elizabeth I. Ken Barlow and "Uncle Albert" played Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing respectively. The Jubilee also figured into the time-travel storyline of a 1983 Doctor Who story, Mawdryn Undead.[citation needed]

Lasting impact[edit]

Various places were named after the Jubilee. The under-construction Fleet Line of the London Underground was renamed the Jubilee Line, though it did not open until 1979. Other places named after the Jubilee were the Silver Jubilee Walkway and the Jubilee Gardens in South Bank, London.

Apart from names, the Jubilee also saw the borough of Derby granted the status of a city.

Australian artist, Paul Fitzgerald, was commissioned to complete the only official portrait of the Queen during the Silver Jubilee year.

Similar parties and parades were planned for the Golden Jubilee in 2002.