HL Deb 27 July 1896 vol 43 cc669-71

asked the Government whether, inasmuch as on Wednesday, September 23rd next, the Queen would have reigned, D.V., more days than any other Sovereign of this Realm, in honour of such an auspicious and extraordinary event, they would introduce a Measure to constitute for this year only September 23 a holiday in the same sense as December 26 and certain other days were kept as holidays annually. The noble Lord quoted from a letter he addressed to The Times of September 2, 1885, advocating that the Queen's Jubilee should be celebrated in a manner suitably commemorative of a noble reign; and also from a letter he sent to the Press on September 21, 1895, calling attention to the fact that on the 23rd of that month in the ensuing year the Queen would have reigned longer than any other Sovereign over the English people. He observed that, whatever celebrations or rejoicings might be reserved for the next year, it appeared to him fitting that the particular day on which Her Majesty would have reigned for a longer period than any other Sovereign of the Realm should be kept as a Bank Holiday. He observed that he should like to read two letters which were addressed by him to the public newspapers some years ago, which had a distinct bearing upon the subject of his Question. The motives which led him to propose the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee were precisely the same as those which prompted his present Question:—He addressed the following letter to The Times of September 2, 1885:— Sir,—Yet ten months and Queen Victoria (D.V.) will enter her year of jubilee. For celebrating such an event, it would seem fitting that long preparations should be made, not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout the Empire. When George III. entered the 50th year of his reign, in 1809, great rejoicings took place in London, debtors were freed from prison, processions, attended by the King in person, were made to St. Paul's, and when the celebration in England had been concluded, it was renewed with extraordinary splendour in India the following year. An eye-witness has just described to me the ceremony at Windsor, where George III. and Queen Charlotte appeared on the terrace amid the cheers of the people. How few living can recollect that day. If, then, such an event was kept with due honour, with so much more honour should Her Majesty's jubilee be observed, as her reign has surpassed in magnificence the reigns of all her predecessors. If we place noble monuments on sites that can only be approached by many steps, in point of time are scarce ten months too long to prepare by degrees for the keeping of so glorious a year? That year—namely, 1886—will be the 300th anniversary of the condemnation to death of Queen Mary Stuart by the last of our English Sovereigns—Elizabeth. Since Elizabeth, no monarch of purely English blood has occupied the English throne; while, on the other hand, the line of Mary Stuart has never ceased to be Sovereign until it has become most precious to us in the person of that great woman and great ruler, our present Queen. England, scotland, Wales, and Ireland, all four should vie with each other in this celebration. These, as four horses of widely varying tendency and mettle, are attached to the car of the British State. Of all metaphors, the reins of government in the hands of a ruler is the most frequent. Way we extend it and say that in our Sovereign's hand those reins have been held with a skill as marvellous as the difference is great between four peoples of divergent race and ambition. It would be hard to number the motives which must suggest themselves both to the national and to the Imperial mind for the keeping of the jubilee with honour worthy—they surely must be without number, yet the chief of all must be the sense of gratitude for a co-existence of religious and political liberty unknown outside our Empire. That such a state of liberty has been brought about by the genius of the British peoples is a commonplace of history. It deserves to be also a commonplace, that it has been advanced by the genius of that exalted person, who for all but seven times seven years has guided our destinies. All these suggestions were more than carried out, and it had occurred to him that this more extraordinary event even than the Jubilee should he celebrated. Of course, it was not until next year that the sixtieth year of Her Majesty's reign would be completed; nevertheless, on the 23rd September the Queen would have reigned longer, in point of days, than any other sovereign of these realms. He, therefore, on September 21st, 1895. addressed the following letter to The Tablet