Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

Silver Jubilee of the Reign of King George V, 1935

by Claudia Willetts

The word “Jubilee” will be constantly heard throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations in connexion with the rejoicings which mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of King George V’s accession to the throne, write MC Carey and Dorothy Stuart in The King’s Service. After tracing the history of the term, the authors ask “Why should a country regard it as a cause for rejoicing that the same sovereign has reigned for twenty-five years?” They reply that an uninterrupted reign usually indicates a period of stability unmarked by fierce upheavals, a period during which advances have been made and victories won in various fields of national activity.

The editors of “Fortune” writing in The King of England: George V, take a different view. What is required in a king is the ability to endure boredom patiently, to appear well in public, to maintain an unapproachable reserve of manner, and to exhibit on appropriate occasions a deep and natural humanity. Those requirements the simple, sensible, cautious, inconspicuous King George fulfilled so well with his sense of tradition and propriety. The editors continue by writing that the state is built upon the expectation that a hereditary monarch will be, in the phrase of the constitutional writer Walter Bageot, “a simple, common man who plods the plain routine of life from the cradle to the grave”. They tell an illustrative anecdote of the embarrassment of a young lady whose enthusiasm for the monarch was challenged shortly after his dangerous illness in 1928. Asked to name one thing the King had ever done, she gulped and sobbed: “He got well.”

Eric Acland and Ernest Bartlett describe the pageantry of Jubilee Day, 6 May, 1935, in Long Live the King: George V, King and Emperor. For twenty-five of the most arduous and troublesome years that ever faced any monarch, King George had steadfastly held to the paths of duty and right which his conscience had set for him, without ever a thought to glory for himself. On that day, London though, was a rich panoply of cloths of silver and of gold, with gay banners and festoons of flowers. Even an American commercial establishment spent over $50,000 on exterior decorations alone. Princes from the Indian empire, miners from Wales, statesmen from the Dominions, farmers, sailors, labourers and bankers all came to show their love and loyalty. Riding in an open state carriage, the King wore the scarlet and gold of a Field Marshal, while the Queen presented a radiant figure in silver.

At St Paul’s Cathedral for the Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving, the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered the address, in which he noted that “looking back [on the years of the reign], we realize that…they have been years of almost unbroken anxiety and strain. They began in an atmosphere of embittered party strife. Into the midst of them came suddenly the fiercest ordeal which the nation has ever been summoned to face [World War I]. Since then have followed years of toilsome effort …to revive the trade and industry on which the lives of multitudes depend, and to find the bases of a settled peace. Yet, beneath the troubled surface there has been the deep underflow of a spirit of unity, confidence and steadfast strength. That spirit has found a centre in the throne.”

The book His Majesty’s Speeches: The Record of the Silver Jubilee, tells of the inauguration of King George’s Jubilee Trust by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, as a national thank-offering. Its purpose was the welfare of young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. It was designed to extend the work of existing movements by providing for cultural facilities meeting the physical, mental and moral needs of the rising generation, so that youth might grow up worthy of the great heritage which was theirs.