Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

22 Jun 1897
Event location: 

London and other cities in the British empire


Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 was both a more restrained and a far grander celebration of her reign than the Golden Jubilee of the previous decade. The Queen’s own involvement was greatly diminished on account of her increasing frailty. As an example of alterations in ceremony, the thanksgiving service took place not in Westminster Cathedral, but in the open outside St Paul’s Cathedral, so that the Queen could remain in her carriage. The scope of the celebrations, however, expanded considerably for the Diamond Jubilee, with a celebration of empire becoming arguably the central theme: ‘unlike the Golden Jubilee, which had placed Victoria and her family at the centre of the festivities, the Diamond Jubilee would focus almost exclusively on a celebration of the British Empire’ (King, p. 19). Joseph Chamberlain is generally credited for this shift in focus.

Before leaving Buckingham Palace on 22 June, the Queen issued a telegraph throughout the empire, saying ‘From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them!’ Invitations had been issued to all the Indian princes, but many were forced to remain at home to deal with the aftermath of the devastating famine of 1896-7. Many Indian troops, however, participated in the processions through London, including Bengal lancers, officers of the Indian Imperial Service Troops in kirtas with gold sashes, and Sikhs marching alongside Canadians. The Daily Mail wrote: ‘Up they came, more and more, new types, new realms at every couple of yards, an anthropological museum – a living gazetteer of the British Empire’ (23 June 1897).

Upon her return to Windsor on 23 June, the Queen was met by four young Indian students from Eton College: ‘sons of the Maharajahs of Kuch, Behar, the Minister of Hydrebad, and the Prince of Gondal’ (King, p. 268). On 2 July the Queen surveyed the colonial troops at Windsor. A court circular erroneously claimed she had addressed the Indians in Hindustani, which was allowed to pass by the Queen who said ‘I could have done so had I wished’ (Ponsonby, pp. 62-3; quoted in King, p. 269).

Celebrations were also held throughout India. Typically, responses focused on the unifying effect of Queen Victoria, and presented her in a maternal light.

British Government, Joseph Chamberlain
People involved: 

Joseph Chamberlain (Colonial Secretary), community leaders throughout Britain and India.

Published works: 

Bharucha, A. M. and Thakore, D. P., The Diamond Jubilee at Surat and a Short Early Life of Her Majesty the Queen (Surat, The Mutual Improvement Society: Surat Khodabux Press, 1897)

Joshi, P. B., Victoria Mahotsava, or Verses in Commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty’s Reign (Bombay: Tatva-Vivechaka Press, 1897)

Royal Diamond Jubilee Commemoration Programme: Colombo, Sri Lanka. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Collection. http://www.jstor.org/stable/60230172

The Victorian Diamond Jubilee: Hindu Technical Institute, Punjab Inaugural Address on the Commercial and Industrial Development of India, 21st June, 1897 (Lahore: Tribune Press, 1897)


Daily Mail, 23 June 1897, and other contemporary newspapers

Secondary works: 

Buckle, George Earle (ed.), The Letters of Queen Victoria. A Selection from Her Majesty’s Correspondence and Journal between the Years 1886 and 1901, 3 vols (London: John Murray, 1930-2)

Chapman, Caroline and Raban, Paul (eds), Debrett’s Queen Victoria’s Jubilees 1887 and 1897, foreword by H. B. Brooks-Baker (London: Debrett’s Peerage Ltd, 1977)

Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria: A Personal History (London: HarperCollins, 2000)

King, Greg, Twilight of Splendour: The Court of Queen Victoria during Her Diamond Jubilee Year (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007)

Longford, Elizabeth, Queen Victoria (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964)

Ponsonby, Sir Frederick, Recollections of Three Reigns (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1952)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 years of history (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Archive source: 

Letters, journals, and other papers, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Windsor

Newspapers from Britain and South Asia, British Library Newspapers, Colindale, London

National Archives of India, New Delhi

Tags for Making Britain: 

Abdul Karim


Abdul Karim was born in Agra, India, in 1862 to father Sheikh Mohammed Waziruddin, a hospital assistant. In 1887, as part of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Karim was one of two Indians who arrived to serve in the Queen's household; the other was Mohammed Bukhsh.

Soon after they accompanied the Queen to Balmoral. Karim was singled out to help teaching Hindustani to the Queen; he became her 'munshi' in 1889. Queen Victoria took a liking to Karim and granted him some land in the suburbs of Agra. Later he was decorated with the Order of the Indian Empire. Karim's rise within the household caused some controversy - both from the other servants and from government officials - but Queen Victoria supported him in all cases.

In 1893, after six months' leave in India, Karim returned to England with his wife and her mother. They stayed at Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, which the Queen had provided for them. In February 1894, Karim accompanied Queen Victoria on her trip to Florence, Italy, as he would on her many trips to Cimiez in the south of France. The closer he got to the Queen the more the court tried to drive them apart, fearing that he had access to political papers and would pose a threat to the state. However, the Queen adamantly defended Karim and swore he did not read any political papers. Around this time, in the late 1890s, Karim befriended Rafiuddin Ahmed, who attended rallies of the Muslim League. Ahmed was under surveillance but there is little evidence that he constituted any threat to the state.

In 1898, the Queen's health was in decline. As a testament to their friendship, the Queen sought to provide for Karim after her death (Anand, p. 96). On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died at Osborne. Karim immediately retired, was given a pension, and returned to India where he lived until his death in 1909.


Anand, Sushila, Indian Sahib: Queen Victoria's Dear Abdul (London: Duckworth, 1996), p. 15

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1862

Queen Victoria records her first meeting with her two Indian servants.


Rafiuddin Ahmed (fellow Indian in Britain at the time), Mohammed Bukhsh (fellow servant).

Precise DOB unknown: 

23 June 1887, Windsor Castle

A very fine morning with a fresh air. Felt very tired. Drove down to Frogmore with Beatrice to breakfast, and met Vicky and young Vicky there. My 2 Indian servants were there and began to wait.

The one, Mohammed Bukhsh, very dark with a very smiling expression, has been a servant before with Gen. Dennehy, and also with the Rana of Dholpore, and the other, much younger, called Abdul Karim, is much lighter, tall, and with a fine serious countenance. His father is a native doctor at Agra. They both kissed my feet.

Secondary works: 

Anand, Sushila, Indian Sahib: Queen Victoria's Dear Abdul (London: Duckworth, 1996)

Longford, Elizabeth, Victoria R. I. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964)

Plumb, J. H., Royal Heritage: The Story of Britain's Royal Builders and Collectors (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1977)

Ponsonby, Frederick Edward Grey, Recollections of Three Reigns (London: Eyre &Spottiswoode, 1951)

Truth, 19 December 1895

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Hundred Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Visram, Rozina, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: Indians in Britain, 1700-1947 (London: Pluto Press, 1986)

Visram, Rozina, 'Karim, Abdul (1862/3–1909)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/42022]

Archive source: 

Mss Eur D/558/1, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Mss Eur F84/126a, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/P/S/8/61, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Royal Archives, Windsor

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 



Arthur Cottage
Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX
United Kingdom
50° 45' 1.836" N, 1° 16' 11.7372" W
Windsor Castle SL4 1LB
United Kingdom
51° 28' 59.628" N, 0° 36' 20.6352" W
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1909
Precise date of death unknown: 
Location of death: 
Agra, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jun 1887
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

June 1887-1901

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