As the world celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, it’s amazing to see that the preparations for King George III’s Golden Jubilee, in October, 1809, were not only similar (feasts, speeches, fireworks, commemorative memorabilia) but almost universally enthusiastic among the people of England, and while there was no nationally regulated celebration, there was jubilation throughout the country, from city to hamlet, with each city and town recognizing the King’s reign in their own “delightful way.”
No slighting mention is given of “Farmer George” who “lost” the American colonies a few decades before, or even his ever more perilous health. Rather, blessings and praise were heaped upon him and his family. In turn, the king granted royal pardons to prisoners (both those who owed debts to the crown and military deserters) and gave general promotions throughout the military. According to one source*, the inhabitants of one Oxfordshire village made sure that no one forgot this national Jubilee by deciding to name every child born during 1809, Jubilee George or Jubilee Charlotte.
From: The New annual register, or General repository of history, politics, and literature, by John Stockdale, October 1809
The happy event of a British monarch’s entrance into the 50th year of his reign, an event which has occurred but twice before in the long and splendid history of this country, was celebrated by all ranks of people throughout every part of the united kingdom, in a manner worthy of an amiable, patriotic, and venerable king, and a loyal and enlightened nation. The day was one of the finest imaginable for the season, and favoured the public expressions of satisfaction in the highest degree. The celebration was announced in this great metropolis by the pealing of bells, the hoisting of flags, and the assembling of the various bodies of regular troops, and the different corps of volunteers, throughout the town. The forenoon was dedicated to public worship and the acknowledgement of the Divine Providence (exemplified in the protection of his majesty’s person, and of the many national blessings almost exclusively enjoyed by the inhabitants of the united kingdom) in every parish-church and chapel: and we add, that among the various classes of dissenters of all persuasions, we have heard of no exception to the general loyalty and piety of the day. Indeed, we sincerely believe, that the blessings of toleration are too deeply fell, and the advantages of the British constitution too generally acknowledged, to give room for any material difference of opinion in any respectable portion of society.
All the shops were closed. The lord mayor and the whole civic body went in procession to St. Paul’s; and it was truly gratifying, amidst the multitudes in the streets, of both sexes of every rank and description, to see the children of our innumerable charitable institutions walking to their respective places of divine worship. Piety and Charity must ever go hand in hand; and for this reason we are well pleased with the celebration of an event, which is the cause of general and national hospitality and benevolence. This is, in fact, the true nature, the best blessing, and the nearest resemblance to the origin and ancient practice of a Jubilee. The annals of no nation, we fondly believe, when the accounts reach us from different parts of the empire, will be found to have exhibited greater mark– of the best virtues that enrich the human heart. The debtor has been set free; the hungry have been fed; and the naked, in many instances, have been clothed! In all such cases, vanity and fashion may have led some to acts of generosity; but we should not be over scrupulous in our inquiries into the motives of conferring general benefit, and producing happiness to thousands, though it be but for a day. We are satisfied, that to the general character of our countrymen and countrywomen, no such suspicion even attaches; and that the blessing of “him that has none to help him,” will fall upon no small number. Such an union of piety and charity, while it is a comfort to ourselves individually, bring out, and,makes a happy exposition to Europe and the world, of the national character of Britons ; and thus combining moral and political good, is, we believe, in a word, “that righteousness which exalteth a nation.”
At one, the Tower guns fired, and the guards assembled on the parade in St. James’s park, and fired a feu de joi in honour of the event. After church hours, the streets were crowded with the population of the metropolis, in decent or in lively attire; every house pouring forth its inhabitants: the number of well-dressed persons, and the display of the genuine beauty of a great majority of the sex, who do not constantly shine at midnight dances and the public show, but whom this celebration brought into public view, exceeded any former example. Most of them wore ribbons of garter blue, and many had medals with the profile of the king.
The magnificent preparations for the evening were the general objects of notice, which the serenity of such a day as October does not often see gave them full opportunity of ob. serving, while the volunteer corps, returning from their respective parade, enlivened the scene with a martial as well as a patriotic and a festive feature. As the evening approached, the corporation of London and various other bodies were hastening to the Mansion-house, and to their different halls, taverns, and other places of meeting, to celebrate in a more mirthful way the 50th year of the reign of a British ling. At the Mansion-house the corporation sat down to a dinner provided by the chief magistrate of the city; the merchants and bankers met at Merchant-Taylors’ Hall to the number of 400, Mr. Beeston Long in the chair, (where they were joined by the earls of Westmorland, Chatham, Bathurst, Camden, Liverpool, St. Vincent, lords Harrowby, Mulgeave, Berkshire, the Attorney- and Solicitor-general, sir T. B. Thompson, Mr. Rose, &c.) and many of the chief companies of London, at their halls; and numerous other parties, at various places of public or private entertainment.—Day-light was scarcely gone, when the full blaze burst forth upon the eye in all the skill of art, and in all the radiant splendour and varied magnificence 6f the general illumination of the British capital.—Hands could hardly be procured to light up the innumerable lamps; and therefore the illuminating of most of the public edifices commenced as early as two in the afternoon. All the other customary demonstrations of popular satisfaction were abundantly exhibited, with, perhaps, some little of the awkward, though, we trust, honest coarseness, with which the great body of the people express their homely but sincere participation of the festivities in which all were called upon to share and unite.
Our limits preclude us from entering into minute particulars. The following, among other public buildings, however, excited universal admiration: the Bank, Mansion-house, East India House, Lloyd’s Coffee House, Royal Exchange, Admiralty, ‘Trinity House, Po»t Office, Horse Guards, War Office, Somerset House, Ordnance Office, Opera House, the theatres, fire-offices, glass-warehouses, &c.
The jubilee was celebrated with every demonstration of joy at Windsor. Between eight and nine their majesties, princess Elizabeth, and the dukes of York and Sussex, attended’ divine service at the private chapel in the Castle. At half past ten her majesty and princess Elizabeth passed under the triumphal arch, towards Frogmore,to inspect the preparations. At one, the queen, princess Elizabeth, the dukes of York, Kent, Cumberland, and Sussex, attended by lady llchester, lord St. Helen, the mayor and corporation of Windsor, with white wands, and others, walked to the Bachelor’s Acre, for the purpose of seeing the ox roasting whole. The bachelors lined the entrance to their Acre, and the corporation conducted the royal party to a booth fitted up for the occasion. From the booth they proceeded towards the ox, upon a temporary platform placed for the occasion; they proceeded to view the construction of the grates and walls for roasting the ox, which were so well contrived as to roast two whole sheep at the same time: they returned to the booth. The butchers employed in managing the cooking of the whole animals, dressed upon this occasion in blue frocks and silk stockings, cut the first prime pieces from the ox and sheep, and put them upon silver plates, and the bachelors and butchers waited upon the royal party with them. They all tasted, and appeared highly pleased with the novelty.
— The prince of Wales and princess Charlotte of Wales arrived about half past 12.
—At one, fifty pieces of cannon were discharged from the , grove in Windsor park.
—At night the queen gave a most superb fête at Frogmore,which in point of taste, splendour, and brilliancy has on no occasion been excelled. At half past nine the gates were thrown or en for the nobility, gentry, and others having tickets of admission. On the entrance into the gardens, the spectator was struck with astonishment and delight at the charming and fanciful scene of variegated lamps of different figures and colours. The avenues and walks were hung with brilliant coloured lamps in the shape of watchmen’s lanterns. The lawns adjoining to the house afforded a rich display of the choicest shrubs and plants, taken from the green-house. At ten the queen arrived; and after her majesty had joined the company, the fire-works began; at the conclusion of which there appeared of a sudden, and as it were by magic, on the beautiful piece of water opposite the garden front of the house, two triumphal cars, drawn by two sea-horses each, one occupied by Neptune, and preceded by the other with a band of music. The cars had a very superb appearance. On coming to the temporary bridge erected over the canal opposite the garden front, transparencies were displayed in an equally sudden and unexpected manner on the battlements, with the words ” Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!” inscribed on them. At the same moment the band struck up the tune. Opposite the bridge, an elegant Grecian temple was erected on a mount, surrounded by eight beautiful marble pillars. The interior of the temple was lined with purple; and in the centre was a large transparency of the Eye of Providence, fixed, as it were, upon, a beautiful portrait of his majesty, surmounted by stars of lamps. From the temple a double staircase descended to the water’s edge. On the windings of the staircase were erected nine altars with burning incense.
—On the lawn twelve beautiful marquees were erected, where the company partook of tea and coffee during the fire-works. Covers were laid in the principal dining-rooms and at 12 the company sat down to an elegant supper, consisting of all the delicacies of the season. The frames were beautifully done in emblematic figures, part of which represented Britannia kneeling by the lion, the eye of Providence above, and underneath was written by her royal highness the princess Elizabeth, “Britannia, grateful to Providence, celebrates the 50th year of a reign sacred to piety and virtue.”
—Her majesty and the branches of the family present retired at half past one, when the company began to depart. Amongst the company present were, the earls of Uxbridge, Harcourt, Cardigan; lords St. Helen’s and Walsingham, countesses of Cardigan and Harcourt, ladies Cranley, Bective, &c.
On this happy occasion, a proclamation was issued for pardoning all deserters from the fleet, whether they return to their duty or not; and another, pardoning all deserters from the land forces, provided they surrender in two months from the 25th.
— The lords of the admiralty ordered an extra allowance of 41bs. of beef, 3lbs, of flour, and a pound of raisins to every eight men in his majesty’s ships in port, with one pint of wine, or half a pint of rum each man
—Eleven crown debtors were this day discharged from prison, in addition to above 100 liberated by the Society for the Relief of Persons imprisoned for Small Debts. The donations to this laudable society for the above charitable purpose have been most liberal. The city of London set the example by subscribing 1000/.
The following is a copy of the prayer of thanksgiving to Almighty God (appointed to be used on the 25th instant), for the protection afforded the king’s majesty during a long and arduous reign:—
“O God, in whose hands are the issues of life and death, and to whom alone it belongeth to distribute mercies, as well in lengthening as in shortening the days of men; we yield thee praise and thanks giving for the protection thou hast vouchsafed to our gracious sovereign during a long and arduous reign. Continue, we pray thee, thy watchfulness over him: shield him from the open attacks of his enemies, and from hidden dangers —from the arrow that flieth by day, and from the pestilence that walketh in darkness; enlighten his councils for the public good: strengthen all his measures; and when it shall seem fit to thine unerring wisdom, perfect the ends of both, the restoration of peace and security to his people, of concord and independence to contending and bleeding nations. These blessings and mercies we implore for our sovereign, ourselves, our allies, and our enemies, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.—Amen.”
Below are excerpts from An account of the celebration of the jubilee, on the 25th October, 1809; being the forty-ninth anniversary of the reign of George the third, collected and published by a lady, the wife of a naval officer, printed in 1810.
To those patriotic spirits who manifested their gratitude and joy when their beloved Sovereign entered on the Jubilee Year of his Reign, not in riot and intemperance, but in acts of beneficence and devotion, it is presumed that the following compilation will not be an unacceptable publication. To rescue from the fugacious and perishing pages of a newspaper, such speaking details of national loyalty; to incorporate them with similar accounts collected from private authorities; and to compress the whole within a convenient compass, at the same time that it pays a becoming tribute of justice to individuals, may render no inconsiderable service to history: for thus the liberality of the present day will be transmitted to the latest posterity, and ages yet unborn may learn, that whatever be the failings of our times, want of attachment to virtue and goodness in the person of a revered Sovereign, cannot be ranked amongst the number.
That the inhabitants of this country have duly appreciated the merits of their Sovereign, and paid a just tribute to his manifold virtues, these pages will amply testify. The general sentiment so unequivocally exhibited in the Jubilee Year of his Reign, more eloquently declares the affection of the people at large, than volumes of studied panegyric.
When the 49th Anniversary of his Majesty’s Accession to the Throne was celebrated throughout the kingdom, the petty distinctions of party were forgotten in one general acknowledgment of the blessings enjoyed under a reign the most benignant that, perhaps, any people ever yet experienced. The Meeting House of the Dissenter, the Synagogue of the Jew, the Chapels alike of the Methodist and Roman Catholic, were opened to express one unanimous sentiment; and the whole of the British Dominions presented, on the 25th of October, 1809, the sublime and animating spectacle of an entire nation occupied in praise and thanksgiving to that gracious Being, by “whom Kings reign,” for having spared to so late a period a life so precious as that of George the Third.
THE JUBILEE: LONDON
The veneration and loyalty of the people of London for his Majesty, as well as their gratitude for the opportunity given them by Divine Providence, of celebrating the commencement of the Fiftieth year of our gracious Sovereign’s auspicious reign, was testified by every possible demonstration of joy. The morning was ushered in by a general peal of bells from all the church steeples in the metropolis, and the display of the royal standards, in honour of the day. At ten o’clock the streets were filled in all parts of the town with well-dressed persons. The volunteers in the several districts were seen marching to their respective places of worship, as were the children of the different parishes, to return their grateful thanks to Almighty God for having graciously prolonged to this country the reign of a Monarch, who has on all occasions proved himself the benevolent father of his people, and the protector of their rights, freedom, and property. The crowd of citizens from Temple-bar to Leadenhall-street, during the whole morning, was almost impervious, and the windows, from the first floor to the attics, were filled with beautiful women.
The preparations which were made on every side announced early in the morning a general and splendid illumination. In this demonstration of joy, the unanimous and ardent feeling of the people was particularly conspicuous. It was a demonstration not only not commanded, nor invited, but even in many instances forbidden and deprecated. But the effusions of a happy and loyal people could not be restrained. Every one acted for himself, and a general illumination was the consequence. The public offices, and other public buildings; the theatres; the clubhouses in St. James’s-street; the coffee-houses in all parts; the residences of the principal nobility and gentry, were hung with a profusion of coloured lamps. The day opened with a splendor and mildness that seemed to recall the finest period of the summer. It was, indeed, peculiarly calculated for the purposes to which it was devoted. As such, it was hailed hy the people of all ranks and classes. Sounds of joy and happiness marked the way of all; and it was impossible to listen or to look, without feeling that every Briton celebrated the Jubilee of George the Third as a festival of the heart. Private families and individuals, animated by the same zeal, thronged to every place of public worship, where extraordinary service was performed, and appropriate discourses pronounced upon texts selected for the occasion. The poor were every where made to partake of the comforts of the rich; and the generous hospitality for which Britain is famous, characterised a liberality which would be injured by the cold name of charity, or by any other name that conveys ideas of inequality, of dependence, and superiority, that belong not to an occasion upon which all feel alike.
At one o’clock a grand salute of fifty guns was fired from the Park and Tower. The regiments of Guards in town attended Divine Service at the chapel, Whitehall, formerly the Banqueting-house of Whitehall Palace, which had been repaired for their use, under the direction of his Royal Highness the Duke of York, and was opened on this occasion. The Life Guards were also out; as were also the whole of the Volunteer Corps of the Metropolis, many of which, after hearing Divine Service, had a Grand Field Day in Hyde Park, where each fired a Jeude joie in a most capital style, in honour of the occasion.
At half past ten o’clock the Lord Mayor proceeded from the Mansion-house to Guildhall, in the City State-coach, drawn by his set of six beautiful grey horses, splendidly adorned with ribbons, and attended by the usual Officers, preceded by the trumpets sounding, and the Band of the West London Militia playing God save the King. At Guildhall his Lordship was joined by the Members of the Corporation, and at half past eleven o’clock the procession moved from thence in the following order:—
Four Street Men. Constables. City’s Banners. The River Fencibles, commanded by Commodore Lucas, in new uniforms. Band of Music, West London Militia, commanded by Col. Newnham. Eight City Trumpeters. City’s Banners. Four Marshals’ Men. Six Footmen in State Liveries. Upper City Marshal on Horseback. Lord Mayor’s State Coach. The Aldermen past the Chair. The Recorder. The Aldermen below the Chair. The Sheriffs, in their elegant State Carriages. Chamberlain, Comptroller, and City Law Officers. Twelve Constables. Two Marshals’ Men. , Under City Marshal on horseback.The Members of the Common Council to the number of 160, in carriages, in their violet gowns, closed the procession.
In the large space between the iron gates and great west door of the Cathedral, the West London Militia received his Lordship and the rest of the procession, with presented arms. On entering the great west door of the Cathedral, his Lordship was received by the Dean and Chapter. The centre aisle to the choir was lined on each side by the River Fencibles. An appropriate Sermon was preached by his Lordship’s Chaplain, from the 8th chapter of the 2d of Kings, verse 66′: The Coronation Anthem was performed previous to the Sermon by the full Choir with great effect. The procession returned about three o’clock in the same order. At five o’clock the Corporation were introduced up the Grand Staircase, in front of the Mansion-house; the trumpets sounding during their entrance into the vestibule. The building had been previously decorated with a splendid ‘illumination, consisting of elegant devices of the oak, thistle, and shamrock, coloured lamps, in the centre a radiant display of G. R. and the crown, with “Long may he reign.” The pillars were tastefully ornamented with wreaths of lamps; the whole was much admired for its general grandeur and effect. On entering the grand saloon, which was lined by the band of the West London Militia, playing God save the King, Rule Britannia, &;c. the company were individually received by the Lord Mayor, in his robes of state, with that affability, politeness, and attention, that distinguish this worthy Chief Magistrate. The saloon was brilliantly lighted with several large Grecian lamps, beautifully painted, and displaying a scene at once novel and elegant.
At half past five o’clock the doors of the magnificent Egyptian Hall were thrown open, illuminated by the blaze of innumerable lamps, tastefully arranged round the pillars, and the elegant lustres and chandeliers suspended from the roof. The tables were laid out with the greatest taste, and covered with an elegant dinner; the whole of which was served upon plate,with a plentiful supply of Madeira, &c. The band continuing during the whole time to play several delightful military and other airs. After the cloth was removed, Non Nobis Domine, was charmingly sung. The Lord Mayor then gave—”The King—God bless him, and long may he reign!” which was drank with three times three; and with exulting enthusiasm, amidst thunders of applause, that continued unabated for a considerable length of time.— After this effusion of loyal feeling had subsided, the national anthem of God save the King was performed by the professional gentlemen present, with appropriate additional verses for the occasion, the whole company standing, and joining in the chorus with the most heartfelt zeal, accompanied by the animating sounds of the military bands.
A general order was issued by the Lords of the Admiralty, that all our brave tars, in the ports of Great Britain, should be regaled with roast beef, plum pudding, and a pint of wine, or half a pint of rum, in addition to their usual allowance.
—The Governor and Directors of the Bank of England allowed their clerks, 927 in number, one guinea each, for a dinner, to celebrate the Jubilee day—The Directors of the Royal Exchange Insurance Fire Office gave each of their clerks ten guineas, their messengers five guineas each, and their firemen one guinea each, to celebrate the day.
—The Marshal of the King’s Bench, with his usual liberality, ordered a fine ox, with a butt of porter, bread, &c. to be distributed in the prison, with the very praise-worthy intention of enabling those prisoners whose circumstances would not allow them to participate in the general festivity of the Jubilee, to commemorate that auspicious day with satisfaction. The Corporation of the City of London presented the Society for the relief and discharge of Debtors with the sum of £1000. And the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, presented the same fund with the sum of £500. By the liberality of Sir James Shaw, Bart. the president, and under the humane superintendence of R. Baldwin, Esq. the treasurer, the patients in Bartholomew’s Hospital (near 500 in number) were regaled, (as far as was consistent with their respective maladies) with excellent roast beef and plum-pudding, a pint of porter to each female, and a quart to each male patient capable of enjoying it, every tiling being conducted with great comfort and regularity. The Members of the Royal Academy dined together in their Council Chamber, at Somerset-house, to celebrate the Jubilee.
The children in Christ’s Hospital, after hearing Divine Service, and a sermon, by the Rev. James Crowther, were regaled, to the number of 700, in their great hall, with plenty of excellent roast beef and plum puddings (of which there were no less than 80). After dinner the youths were brought up in divisions of about 30, and received a glass of wine each, the elder boy of each class, as they advanced to the table where it was distributed, ascended a bench, and gave as a toast, “To the King; long may he reign!” which was succeeded by a universal shout from the boys at large, each being served with a glass of wine in the most perfect order. The song of “God save the King,” was impressively and delightful sung by a select party of the boys, the whole joining in the chorus, in a manner which at once charmed and affected the feelings of the auditory. The greatest credit is due to the Treasurer and Governors, who superintended and regulated this festivity, and who appeared fully rewarded for the pains they took, by the gladdened countenances and innocent joy felt by their numerous and interesting family.
Day-light was scarcely gone, when the full blaze burst forth upon the eye, in all the skill of art, and in all the radiant splendour and varied magnificence of the general illumination of the.British capital. Hands could hardly be procured to light up the innumerable lamps. All the customary demonstrations of popular satisfaction were abundantly exhibited. Those who recollect similar displays after the recovery of the Monarch’s health, and the several naval victories, require no description. Those who have not witnessed such a sight may find some gratification in the perusal of the details which are given.
The pillars of the portico in front of the Mansion House were encircled with rows of lamps, and the interstices decorated with golden vases and bouquets of oak, thistle, shamrock, &c. intermixed with flowers. In the centre was a large tablet, with,an illuminated inscription, “Long may he reign,” over which was the crown, &c.
—The, illumination of Lloyd’s, on the north front of the Exchange, was appropriate and magnificent. In the centre, opposite Bartholomew-lane, was the representation of, the stern of a ship in full sail, 40 feet high from the keel to the maintop, with a long pendant flying. On the stern was inscribed Jubilee, 50, Lloyd’s. On the right was a large compartment, illuminated, with the motto “Ships, Colonies, and Commerce;” and on the left, one with the inscription, “Long Jive the King.” At each end of the building G. R. and the crown above. In other spaces were placed anchors, cables, stars, &c. The novelty of the design of the ship, and the brilliant; effect of the whole of this exhibition, created universal admiration.— The south front of, the Royal Exchange, facing Cornhill, was also decorated in a most splendid manner; the pillars and outlines of the building were finished with variegated lamps, and under the “archway in the centre hung a large illuminated anchor and trident, surmounted by a British Ensign. On the steeple was hoisted the Royal Standard.
—The Bank of England was elegant and superb. The entablatures, ballustrades and arches, were all marked with lines of lamps, and the columns encircled with serpentine wreaths. In the centre was a very large brilliant star and crown, with the motto, “God save the King.” All the pediments and the recesses behind the pillars, in Threadneedle-street, Bartholomew-lane, and Princes-street were ornamented with stars and other devices. The new circular portico, at the corner of Prince’s street and Threadneedle-street, was very tastefully decorated. The building opposite exhibited, on a grand tablet, “God preserve the King.” The wall of Grocer’s Hall Garden, was adorned with the royal emblems.” The Sun and the Imperial Fire Offices, and all the neighbouring buildings, lent their aid to this most dazzling and interesting scene.
—The illuminations at the Post Office displayed Very great taste; and fancy. The whole of the covered passage leading: to the office Was decorated-with arched festoons, richly hung with variegated lamps. The front was also Ornamented in a brilliant and appropriate manner.
—-The illuminations of ‘Mercers’ Hall, in Cheapside’, were well designed, and beautifully adorned by a splendid display Of lamps. A transparency containing a full-length portrait of his Majesty in his; state robes, under which was, “Long live the King”.
—The Admiralty was particularly splendid; the grand colonnade at the entrance of the hall being ornamented with spiral rows of different colours, from the ground to the top, amounting, it is said, to 3000 for each pillar, and the minor colonnade in front being also decorated in a splendid manner.
-—The illuminations at the British Museum were not inferior to that of any other in point of simplicity and elegance. The front of the gateway forming a triumphal arch, had a row of lamps on every architectural line. In the pediment were the letters G. R. and on the angle at the top of the pediment was a brilliant crown, within the arch, on a transparency, were the words Vota publica quinquaquagies suscepta.
—Covent Garden Theatre was lighted up by rows of lamps round the window frames, &c-
—The Horse Guards, towards Whitehall, had a motto in the centre, “God save the King,” with G. R. crown, &c. &c. On each wing, the crown, &c. &c. were repeated with superb festoons. The Treasury and Office for the Home Department were tastefully decorated.
—City of London Tavern. A transparency, 12 feet by 9, painted by Howard, R. A. above appears a figure of Time, unrolling a scroll, on which is written “Jubilee;” immediately under, Britannia is placing a wreath of honour on a colossal bust of his Majesty; on the right. the City of London, accompanied by a figure of Commerce, is represented returning thanks to Providence for the many blessings of his reign; on the left, Science and the Arts are looking up to him as their Patron and Protector, and one of the group is tracing on the pedestal, “Inscribed by a grateful People to their King and Father, on entering the 50th year of his reign, October 25, 1809.”
— The whole front of Vauxhall Gardens was so mechanically arranged as to represent a brilliant temple of loyalty, upwards of 70 feet in height, closely studded with variegated lamps, each compartment displaying different splendid and appropriate devices, in number exactly fifty, and terminating with an imperial crown, and other regal insignia. This had a very grand and striking effect, as the crown alone contained upwards of 1000 lamps.—The most general decorations were the Crown and G. R. and the mottos were mostly the same as those given. It is impossible to enter into further particulars of these numerous exhibitions of loyalty and splendour.
The splendid fete given by her Majesty at Frogmore surpassed the expectation of every one. In the midst of an immense sheet of water, on an island, appeared a magnificent temple, dedicated to Britannia, within which an appropriate device met the eye. A beautiful star ascended from the summit of it, in which Mr. Turnerelli’s bust of his Majesty was exhibited. In the front of the temple, and close to the margin of the water, appeared a transparency, with these words:” Britannia celebrates the fiftieth year of a reign sacred to virtue and piety.”
—On the left of the temple a temporary bridge was erected over the lake, brilliantly illuminated, and inscribed “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves,” which had a beautiful and magnificent effect. Behind this the fire-works were exhibited, and a more striking spectacle was never witnessed, as may be conceived from the following enumeration of them, and the order in which they were fired :—First Division. A salute battery of fifty maroons.—Two pyramids, Bengal fire—Twenty-four half-pound rockets, two at a time.—Two double triangle wheels, illuminated with diamond pieces.— Two planks saucissons.—Two air balloons.—Two large mines.—Two regulated pieces of three mutations.—Two planks pots de brins. Second Division.—Twenty-four half pound rockets.—Two air balloons.—Two regulated pieces, of three mutations.—Two large mines.—Two figure pieces, with spiral and scroll wheels.—Two planks pots de brins. Third Division.—Twenty-four half-pound rockets-—One grand figure piece, of three mutations.—Two air balloons.—Two balloon wheels, with Roman candles, rockets, &c.—Two flights of rockets.—Two grand regulated pieces, with globe wheels.—Two planks pots de brins. Fourth Division.—Twenty-eight one-pound rockets.—Two figure pieces, with spiral wheels and bayonet fire.—Two flights of rockets.—Two pyramids, Bengal fire.—A grand illuminated temple, with decorations, fixed sun, diamond pieces, and pots d’aigrets, &c.—One plank pots de brins.—Two planks saucissons. Three flights of rockets.—One large air balloon.—One battery of maroons.
The rockets, balloons, &c. ascending when fired, were again reflected by the lake in a thousand directions, and heightened inconceivably the splendour of the scene. Two cars or chariots, drawn by sea horses, in one of which was a figure representing Britannia, in the other a representative of Neptune, appeared majestically moving on the bosom of the lake, followed by four boats filled with persons dressed to represent tritons, &c. These last were to have been composed of choristers, who were to have sung “God save the King” on the water, but unfortunately the crowd assembled was so immense, that those who were to have sung could not gain entrance. The high treat this could not but have afforded was in consequence lost to the company.
—The interior of the temple was lined with purple, and in the centre was a large transparency of the Eye of Providence, fixed, as it were, upon a portrait of his Majesty, surmounted by stars of lamps. From the temple a double staircase descended to the water’s edge. On the windings of the staircase were erected nine altars with burning incense.
—On the lawn 12 marquees were erected, where the company partook of tea and coffee during the fire-works. Covers were laid in the principal dining rooms, and at 12 o’clock the company sat down to an elegant supper, consisting of all the delicacies of the season. The frames were beautifully done in emblematic figures, part of which represented Britannia kneeling by the lion, the Eye of Providence above, and underneath was written by her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth, “Britannia, grateful to Providence, celebrates the 50th year of a reign sacred to piety and virtue.”
The Queen was attended by the Dukes of York, Clarence, and Sussex, and the Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, and Sophia. The Princesses and nobility wore blue ribbons, inscribed “The 50th year; may God bless him who blesseth us.”
In Frogmore, the company was mixed in a manner suitable to an occasion, on which all classes have shown such affectionate respect to the King, and on which, therefore, the Queen resolved to dispense, in a great measure, with distinctions for the day. All ranks, she said, were united in thankfulness, and therefore all should share in what entertainment she could give them. Tickets were accordingly sent to every family in Windsor, who had subscribed any thing to be distributed amongst the poor on that day. There was a great number of tradesmen’s wives and daughters present, mixed with the first nobility, and the accommodation for their reception was excellent; the whole way from the entrance of the grounds to the house and the temporary buildings erected about it, being covered with an awning and matted. The refreshments were tea and all kinds of sweetmeats and wines before the fireworks; an elegant supper afterwards. The Queen withdrew between twelve and one; but the Royal Dukes remained till three, and it was four before the whole company retired. Several bands of music attended.
Another account, Jubilee jottings: The jubilee of George the Third. 25th October, 1809, was printed in 1887 by Thomas Preston. With a clarity of recollection that comes with time, he recounts the same events, if not with the same breathless enthusiasm of our first hand observers, with an attention to detail and narrative style that is easy to read and imagine. From him, we get further descriptions of the illuminations– not only how they appeared, but how they were prepared for and presented.
The Georgian Jubilee
When it became probable that George III. would live to complete his Jubilee as King, the exact date and mode of celebration began to occupy public attention. And, oddly enough, the first general indication that the subject was really being thought about was a sudden rise in the tallow market. This was in March, 1809, when the tallow merchants and tallow chandlers began to accumulate large stores in anticipation of the expected great demand for candles in October. The price went up three-halfpence per pound, and this brought the subject home to every household; for at that time gas was a novelty and the tallow candle was the principal artificial indoor light. Sixteen shillings for a dozen pounds was the wholesale price, but this high figure only lasted about a month. It was proposed that as candles were so dear there should be no general illumination, and the suggestion being generally acquiesced in, the price of candles only went up a halfpenny per pound about a month before the Jubilee Day. But before this rise the directors of the Bank of England had laid in 19,200 lbs. of candles, as their stock for September and October!
The Jubilee rejoicings, however, had begun on the 4th June, the King’s birthday, when there was a splendid fete at Bombay, given by the Governor. It was attended by ambassadors from all parts of the Indian Empire, and from neighbouring countries. The Orientals looked upon the long reign as a proof of Divine favour, and were most enthusiastic in their congratulations. An eye-witness wrote at the time that “the Jubilee at Bombay was celebrated with the greatest judgment, taste, splendour, and effect.”
As in 1809 so in 1887—India has been first in celebrating the Royal Jubilee.
As soon as it was settled that the 25th October, 1809, was to be the Jubilee Day the more active preparations wore begun, though at first there was not much energy displayed, and many proposals were taken up in a halfhearted way, which presaged failure. In explanation of this comparative inertness, it must be admitted that the country could hardly be said to have been in a condition for rejoicing of any kind, much less for entering heart and soul into the festivities of a National Jubilee. The health of the King was certainly still precarious, and his failing sight made it quite impossible for him to attend, so as to appreciate, any public spectacle, and the Princess Amelia was at Weymouth, visibly wasting away. Many homes were in mourning for relatives lost in the terrible wars which were devastating the Continent, and not bringing too much glory to our troops: while at home both food and fuel were dear.
Still, compared with other European nations, the people of this land had, after all, good cause for rejoicing, and this feeling is prominently observable throughout the records of the national festivities. The Addresses to the King, the speeches at the banquets and at the village feasts, and the songs that were sung, all had the same burden, “Badly off as we are, is there another nation under the sun so happy and so free?”
The Jubilee Morn
Wednesday, the 25th of October, broke brightly and gave promise of fine weather. At day-dawn the bats, owls, and magpies in the old church tower of Berkhampstead must have been literally knocked off their perches when the crash of tho cannon which had been planted on the church roof woke the echoes, and saluted the morn with fifty rounds.
This hankering after high places was also displayed by the bands of musicians who climbed to the parapets of the churches and played as lustily as they could “that beautiful ode, God save the King.” Sometimes the anthem, “May the King live for ever,” was given by the village choir from the church steeple at sunrise, doubtless to the great delight of the loyal early risers. This singular style of jubilation was observed at Berkhampstead, Plymouth, Axminster, Haughton, Stafford, and other places.
The legitimate purpose of the church towers and steeples, namely, to fling forth what Charles Lamb so sweetly calls the “Music nighest bordering upon heaven,” was by no means forgotten. Every peal of bells in the kingdom was kept going, by relays of ready ringers, who took a pride in making the number of changes some multiple of fifty. At Southampton “grandsire triples” and “triple bob majors” made merry music all day long. The ringers must indeed have required an unlimited supply of the oft-mentioned “strong beer” to have been able to ring out, as they did, 1809 complete clangs on the sweet bells of Bromsgrove.
On the Jubilee Day of 1809 upwards of 2,000 poor people were feasted and made happy in this building. One hundred of the principal inhabitants, wearing scarves on which were embroidered the legend “God save the King,” acted as carvers and stewards. The “strong beer” was supplied in numerous hogsheads, from which were filled clean scoured pails, placed at convenient distances along the tables. The scene was described as “presenting one of the grandest and most interesting sights that ever human eye delighted in.” Hats were waved and nine hearty cheers were given in response to the Bang’s health, which “produced a spontaneous gush of joyful tears from all that either partook of the feast or witnessed the rapturous enjoyment.”
At the same time, similar scenes on a smaller scale were being witnessed in the towns; and, in the villages, though the numbers assembled were necessarily less, yet the enjoyment was quite as great.
Although there was at first some opposition to the proposed general illumination, partly on account of the cost, and partly for fear of the rabble, popular opinion was unmistakably in favour of it, and the Times on the day after the Rejoicings gave a glowing account of the Festivities. Speaking of the illuminations, it says that “Daylight was scarcely gone when the full blaze burst forth upon the eye, in all the skill of art, and in all the radiant splendour and varied magnificence of the general illumination of the British Capital.”
For some weeks previously the newspapers had published advertisements of special devices—Japanese lamps, lamp frames, and chandeliers for illumination. In private houses the usual plan was to fix in every window a candle in a tin sconce, while the more elaborate arrangements included tin chandeliers made to hold five, seven, or more specially made Jubilee candles, and these were hung in the windows.
For out-door illuminations coloured lamps, made for the purpose, were filled with oil and supplied with a floating wick, or fitted with dumpy candles like our night lights. These lamps were hung on long nails fixed in boards, and arranged according to roughly drawn and coloured designs. The process of lighting was very tedious. For instance, the Bank of England had 18,000 lamps for their illuminations, and it took all the hands the contractors could get over six hours to complete the lighting. Innumerable transparencies brightened up blank spaces and gave a pleasing variety to the grand spectacle, which seen under the most favourable conditions of wind and weather, was enjoyed by a great, but orderly throng. There was no disturbance of any kind in the streets of the metropolis, and there were no conflagrations reported next day.
In the provinces opinion was divided as to the desirability of an illumination. At Wellington candles were distributed gratis, but many towns, including Hull, Wakefield, Warwick, and Shrewsbury, preferred fireworks or bonfires. Lathom House seems to have carried off the bonfire palm. Coal gas as a light for domestic use was quite a novelty, and some towns celebrated the Jubilee by lighting their streets with gas for the first time. It was tried as an experiment in an illumination at Manchester, and spoken of as “a curious preparation called gas.”
While many larger cities issued proclamations and made plans for large scale celebrations, the city of Bath is of especial interest:
The Mayor and Corporation, accompanied by the Bath Volunteers and the Friendly Societies, thirty-three in number, containing 2,487 members, each Society distinguished by its particular banner and colours, went in grand procession to the Abbey Church. Part of the Societies went to Walcot Church. Collections were made at the doors of both churches for the benevolent purpose of releasing the debtors in the County Gaol.
On returning to the Hall, cakes and wine were given to the juvenile part of the procession. The Volunteers marched to the Crescent Field, where they fired a feu de joie; and the members of the Friendly Societies departed to their respective club-rooms, in which they dined together in much harmony; each man received Is. 6d. towards his expenses from the public subscription. Between 200 and 300 persons, including children of the Sunday School, were regaled at dinner by the managers of the Argyle Chapel. The Sheriffs, George Cook and George Lye, Esquires, generously opened the prison doors of the city, and at their own costs released every debtor. The Mayor and Corporation, the Clergy, and a select party, dined at the White Hart. In the evening there was a ball at the Town Hall. Jubilee medals and sashes were generally worn. The sashes were worn across the shoulders, and were made of purple satin ribbon about two inches wide, and were inscribed in gold lace letters with the words, “For the glorious Jubilee of our beloved and adored Sovereign, King George The Third. England rejoice as a favoured nation. 25th October, 1809.”
The following Address was transmitted to the King by the Earl Camden, Recorder of Bath.
To the KING’S Mot t Excellent Majesty.
THE Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of your Majesty’s loyal and ancient City of Bath, in special Hall assembled, again approach the Throne with the strongest Expression of Respect and Gratitude. Respect for your eminent Virtues, and Gratitude to God who has prolonged a Life fo justly dear to every Briton, and enabled him joyfully to celebrate the Commencement of the Fiftieth Year of your Reign.
The Annals of this Kingdom present but few Instances of a Reign marked by the like Duration; none in which Events so momentous have occurred, and Difficulties so numerous have been encountered. Yet whatever Distradlion has seized, whatever Anarchy overthrown other Governments of Europe, we have happily seen, during your Majesty’s just and equitable Sway, the general Face of the Kingdom amended; the Intercourse of Places far remote facilitated; Agriculture improved, and the barren Heath made fertile: We behold not only useful Commerce, but the polite Arts luxuriantly flourish; and, above all, we feel a conscious Pride that our national Faith has never been broken, nor our Honour sullied.
These are Benefits which we have enjoyed from the Fortitude and Zeal of a good and patriotic King, to whose Example, and strict Regard to religious Duties we presume to attribute the Blessing of being considered by the Almighty as a favoured People; and that this Empire is preserved unimpaired amidst the Wreck and Desolation of other Parts of the civilized World.
We with Pleasure recollect, that when your Majesty ascended the Throne of this Realm, you exultingly said, ” Born and educated in the Country, I glory in the Name of a Briton.” We have now, for nearly Half a Century, felt the Truth of that Declaration; and, who, that merits the name of a Briton, but mull glory in such a King!
Permit us, Sire, to conclude: May every blessing distinguish the Period of your Majesty’s Reign that can result from a Life of Virtue and an Age of Honour! I This is our earnest Prayer: our fervent Hope is, that your illustrious family may continue as immortal in these Islands as the Liberties and Constitution it has so long protected and so firmly maintained!
Given under our Common Seal of the said City this 30th Day of October, in the Fiftieth Year of your Majesty’s Reign.
Amongst other memorials of King George’s Jubilee still to be found in the museums, or preserved as heirlooms, are the medals and tokens which were struck in honour of the occasion. A good specimen of these souvenirs is a gold locket of octagon shape about an inch and a-half long, and one and a quarter wide. On the obverse side is inserted, under glass, a portrait of the King, and on the back is engraved George III in the 50th year of his reign stamp’d by the hand of nature. Jubilee Medals were struck at Birmingham, Gloucester, and Tewkesbury, and at the Mint on Tower Hill. Two of the best are hero reproduced in facsimile, they are both beautifully engraved.
George III Jubilee Medal
On the reverse of this medal, “50” should be “50th.” A splendidly cut wreath of oak leaves and acorns surrounds the words, Grand National Jubilee Oct 25, 1809, and the wreath is bound together by a ribbon on which is inscribed Give God Praise. This same medal was also struck in gold and silver, and there are some specimens of it in silver gilt.
George III And Queen Charlotte Jubilee Medal
The other medal, here engraved, is hardly as well executed as the former. The likeness of the Queen is however excellent. On the reverse is a somewhat straggling wreath of oak encircling the following inscription: GRAND NATIONAL JUBILEE, Celebrated Oct. 25, A.d. 1809, In Commemoration Of The Accession Of His Majesty King George The Third To The Throne Op The Imperial Realms Of Great Britain And Ireland, October 25th, 1760.
Our final view of the celebrations comes from George Freeston’s contributions to ‘Round and About’ the Blisworth Village Magazine (Spring 1977, Issue No 6). Perhaps these celebrations most closely resemble the exuberance a small town like Chawton might have shown in celebrating their beloved monarch’s reign:
“Through village records of past Royal occasions I see that the people of Blisworth never failed in ‘celebrating well’ the special day. George III had his Jubilee in 1809. (I don’t think any of you will remember that). The morning was ushered in at an early hour by the ringing of the church bells and the flag was hoisted on the tower. At 10am a fat sheep ‘dead’ was drawn around the village preceded by the church band and much flag waving.
The sheep was duly roasted whole and distributed among the poor people with bread and butter in equal proportions to each family. The women of the village were also provided with cake and tea at a street party. The ‘respectable’ inhabitants gathered at the ‘Grafton Arms’ for their supper, and harmony and convivial mirth crowned the festivities of the day.”
Compiled by Laura Boyle.
- *The Lady Magazine: Now that’s a Celebration
- The New annual register, or General repository of history, politics, and literature, by John Stockdale, October 1809
- An account of the celebration of the jubilee, on the 25th October, 1809; being the forty-ninth anniversary of the reign of George the third, collected and published by a lady, the wife of a naval officer, 1810, by A Lady
- Jubilee jottings: The jubilee of George the Third. 25th October, 1809, 1887, by Thomas Preston
- ‘Round and About’ the Blisworth Village Magazine (Spring 1977, Issue No 6)