Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th year of her reign, took place in 2002 and the celebrations were intended to be an opportunity for the Queen to personally say thank you to her people for their loyalty. The Golden Jubilee year was a difficult one for the Queen since her younger sister, Margaret, Countess of Snowden, died on 9 February 2002 and her mother, The Queen Mother, died on 30 March 2002.
The Queen kickstarted the Jubilee celebrations in Jamaica, a country celebrating its own 40th anniversary of independence that year, on 18 February 2002, even though she was still in mourning for her sister. The Queen was enthusiastically welcomed in Jamaica, despite some anti-monarchical sentiment in the country and the short tour was described as a success.
Afterwards, the Queen travelled on to New Zealand where the republican feeling had been on the rise and a low turnout had been reported for the Queen’s arrival. The Australian leg of the tour was also beset with problems as the Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, was in the midst of controversy involving allegations of child abuse cover-ups in the Anglican Church and demonstrators were present when the Queen arrived. The rest of the five-day tour through South Australia and Queensland went without incident.
Back in Britain, the celebrations were predicted to be a failure by some areas of the British media who claimed popularity of the monarchy was at an all time low, however the predictions proved to be wrong and part of it may have been down to sympathy for the Queen who had suffered two close bereavements. After the death of the Queen Mother at the end of March, the whole of the Commonwealth observed a period of mourning and more than one million people came to pay their respects at Westminster Abbey on the day of the funeral.
The celebrations for the Jubilee to be held in London in the summer went ahead as planned and started with a special dinner at 10 Downing St. hosted by Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street for all her living former British Prime Ministers. The Queen officially launched the celebrations with a speech to both houses of the British parliament at Westminster Hall on 30 April where she admitted the monarchy had to change with the times and resolved to continue serving her people to the best of her ability.
The Queen didn’t visit as many counties as she did on her Silver Jubilee tour, however each corner of England was included before the tour moved on to Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Queen also had to open the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester on 25 July 2002.
The Golden Jubilee Weekend started on 1 June 2002 with the Prom at the Palace, a classical concert held in the gardens of Buckingham Palace which included the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Kiri Te Kanawa, Thomas Allen, Angela Gheorghiu, and Roberto Alagna. The following day, a series of Thanksgiving concerts were held throughout the United Kingdom which were attended by various members of the royal family.
The BBC Music Live Festival was launched on 3 June with more than 200 towns and cities publicly playing the Beatles song All You Need Is Love, after which numerous street parties were held. A second concert called Party at the Palace was held in the gardens at Buckingham Palace showcasing over 50 years of pop music, with acts including Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Cliff Richard, and Tony Bennett. Later in the evening, the Queen lit the National Beacon at the Victoria Memorial, the last in a string of 2,006 beacons to be lit in a chain throughout the world.
On 4 June, the entire royal family attended the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, with the Queen arriving in the Gold State Coach, followed by lunch at the Guildhall where she addressed the crowd and expressed pride in the Commonwealth’s achievements. The jubilee procession started along The Mall in the early afternoon with numerous floats decorated to illustrate British life through the years of Elizabeth’s reign. The parade concluded with 5,000 adults and children from the 54 member-states of the Commonwealth marching in national costume and presenting the Queen with a “rainbow of wishes”, handwritten notes from school children across the Commonwealth. The Royal Family assembled on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as a flypast consisting of every type of Royal Air Force aircraft in service, as well as Concorde, and the Red Arrows.
The Queen paid a visit to Canada in October, visiting Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Hull, Fredericton, Sussex, Moncton, and Ottawa. The Queen also became the first monarch to visit the new territory of Nunavut where she opened the new legislative assembly in Iqaluit. After a walk-about, the Queen unveiled one of the street signs on the town’s main thoroughfare which had been renamed in her honour. In Saskatchewan, Her Majesty unveiled a bronze equestrian statue of herself riding Burmese, a horse gifted to her by the RCMP in 1969, which was commissioned as part of the Golden Jubilee Statue Project.