Diamond Jubilee: 60 years since what exactly?

Jun 3, 2012
Jonathan Harwood

It's not the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth's accession nor her coronation. So what are we celebrating?

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THIS weekend, the nation will celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. But why exactly are all the festivities taking place now?

Yes, the Queen came to the throne 60 years ago in 1952, and yes, she was crowned in June - but this weekend actually has little significance. It's not even her official birthday.

Saturday is the anniversary of Elizabeth's coronation, but that took place on 2 June 1953, so it will be 59, not 60, years since the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. And when the bunting is packed away on Tuesday, Elizabeth will have been Queen for 60 years and four months.

She actually became Queen on 6 February 1952, immediately after the death of her father George VI. Princess Elizabeth, as she was then, and her husband Philip were in Kenya en route to Australia and New Zealand when the news arrived, and she was proclaimed Queen while in Africa.

It was not until 16 months later that she was officially crowned.

The reason for the delay is actually rather mundane. As the BBC revealed at the time: "The amount of planning and a wish for a sunny day for the occasion led to the long but excited wait for this day."

It might be reasonable to assume, then, that the celebrations are taking place on Her Majesty's official birthday. But again that is not the case.

As the website of the British Monarchy explains: "The Sovereign's birthday is officially celebrated by the ceremony of Trooping the Colour on a Saturday in June." This year the ceremony is taking place on June 16.

The somewhat arbitrary date of the celebrations is not without precedent. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria, on 22 June, 1897, were held a week before the 59th anniversary of her coronation. However, they did at least coincide with the 60th anniversary of her accession, 20 June 1837.

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