Non-Fiction Review: A History of British Royal Jubilees, by June Woolerton

OVERVIEW

book cover

As Queen Elizabeth II became the only British Monarch to rule for seventy years, she marked the historic moment with a simple message, promising to continue her lifetime of service. But while her Jubilee day was quiet, it was merely the start of a year long celebration that would see millions around the world join the royal party.

Jubilees have become regular events in The Queen’s long reign but they are a relatively modern idea which only really took hold in the reign of King George III. Initially rejected by many as a frivolity, the first royal Jubilee became a huge success. It was a beguiling mix of pageantry, religious devotion and popular celebrations including street parties that has been copied in the Jubilees that followed.

Queen Victoria enjoyed two successful celebrations, including Britain’s first Diamond Jubilee, which helped re-establish her popularity and consolidate the Monarchy. King George V turned to the joy of a Jubilee to re-invigorate his country as it recovered from war and economic woes. In the reign of his granddaughter, Elizabeth II, Jubilees have been transformed into modern media events celebrated globally.

In A History of British Royal Jubilees, we trace the ever evolving story of these popular celebrations, bringing each of them to life and looking at how they changed the image of royalty and the country itself. This is the story of how Jubilee celebrations have become vital to the success of Britain’s Royal Family and to its place at the heart of a nation.

MY REVIEW

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

It’s probably not a surprise that’s there a book about the history of royal jubilees has been published during the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. What is a surprise is that A History of British Royal Jubilees is the first in-depth look at the concept of royal jubilees. Queen Elizabeth has experienced four of them after all.

Although the book appears to start in 1887 and Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the origins of the celebration go back to 1809. One woman, sensing a fading appreciation for the monarchy – especially after the American Revolution – proposed a celebration for George III’s 50 years of rule. Author Jane Woolerton looks at how the idea took hold, what concepts were taken from the Biblical meaning of the word “Jubilee,” and how the day was ultimately celebrated with only one brief appearance by the ailing monarch. From there, she looks at the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s two Jubilees and the four for Queen Elizabeth, and how the concept has changed in some ways but stayed very much the same in others. She suggests that Jubilee celebrations have often coincided with a downturn in the royal family’s popularity, and remarks upon how the festivities can change popular opinion for the better.

Given the release date of this title in the United Kingdom, I was surprised to see just how much had been written about the Platinum Jubilee. While some events took place earlier in the year, or had been announced in 2021, I felt that it was still maybe a little too early to analyze the celebration overall. Will goodwill toward the monarchy last for the rest of the year? The 2012 events included the Summer Olympics held in London. This year, events after June included the Women’s European Football Championships (which England won) and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. There have also been some not good events such as members of government resigning.

Overall, I found A History of British Royal Jubilees to be informative, entertaining, and straightforward to read. My electronic copy of the book didn’t include any illustrations or photographs, which was disappointing. According to the publisher’s website, however, there are 32 mono illustrations which hopefully accentuate some of the portraits, monuments, and merchandise described in the book.

RATING

Rating: 4 out of 5.

BOOK INFORMATION

Publisher: Pen & Sword

Publication Date: 28 June 2022 (UK) / 29 Sept 2022 (USA)

Book Information

JUNE WOOLERTON

June Woolerton is an author and journalist who’s spent twenty years reporting on and writing about royalty and royal history. She’s the editor of a major royal website and has written extensively for magazines and publications on history’s most famous monarchies and rulers as well as presenting podcasts and radio shows on royalty. After graduating in history, she enjoyed a broadcasting career before moving into print and obtaining a degree in psychology. She lives near London with her husband and son.

June Woolerton’s Website

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