Elizabeth II is a story of survival on a regal level. Yes, “symbol-tons” gathered around the United Kingdom’s celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (60 years on the thrown) over the weekend etc. Here is someone who totally comprehends their strengths and limitations as a living symbol and has been willing to tweak (except herself) along the way. Elizabeth II is the longest living British monarch since Queen Victoria. But what may be most remarkable about the Jubilee is authorized by the sitting monarch herself — the online release of Queen Victoria’s journals (www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/home.do). The journals are from the Royal Archives and available online until July 1, 2012. There are 141 volumes total. Typescripts, an edited version by Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice, and handwritten versions (in the Queen’s handwriting) can be seen on the site. Hey, you live a long life on the thrown, you get to see and write about a lot of things. Victoria was the first British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.
Though the Victoria played by Emily Blunt in “Young Victoria” wanted nothing less than a “perfect” coronation, the real Victoria got anything but…and had to go with the flow –
Poor old Lord Rolle who is 82, and dreadfully infirm, in attempting to ascend the steps, fell and rolled quite down, but was not the least hurt; when he attempted to reascend them, I got up and advanced to the end of the steps, in order to prevent another fall.
The Archbishop came in and ought to have delivered the Orb to me, but I had already got it, and he (as usual) was so confused and puzzled and knew nothing; and – went away. There we waited for some minutes; Lord Melbourne took a glass of wine; the Procession being formed, I replaced my Crown (which I had taken off for a few minutes), took the Orb in my left hand, and the Sceptre in my right, and thus loaded proceeded through the Abbey, which resounded with cheers, to the first Robing-room, where I found the Duchess of Gloucester, Ma., and the Duchess of Cambridge with their ladies. And here we waited for at least an hour, with all my ladies and Train-bearers; the Princesses went away about half an hour before I did; the Archbishop had (most awkwardly) put the ring on the wrong finger, and the consequence was that I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again,- which I at last did with great pain. Lady Fanny, Lady Wilhelmina, and Lady Mary Grimston, looked quite beautiful. At about ½ p.4 I re-entered my carriage, the Crown on my head, and Sceptre and Orb in my hand, and we proceeded the same way as we came – the crowds if possible having increased. The enthusiasm, affection and loyalty was really touching, and I shall ever remember this day as the proudest of my life. I came home at a little after 6,- really not feeling tired.
After reading some of the journals, I happened upon a Huffington Post blog by quilter and author Kyra E. Hicks,Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee Gift May Shed Light on Quilt Mystery, Black Studies. Hicks published a children’s book Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria (illustrated by Lee Fodi). The book is based on the true story of Martha Ricks whose family purchased their freedom in 1830 and left the United States for a new life in Liberia through the American Colonization Society. In the book Martha Ann watches the British Navy as they patrol the Liberian coast to stop slave catchers from kidnapping women, men and children and forcing them into the slave trade. It becomes Martha Ann’s greatest wish to meet Victoria and present her with a gift fit for the queen. She saves enough money for her passage to England and to present Queen Victoria with what is known as the Coffee Tree Quilt. In a nutshell (see promotional video)
Hicks has confirmed Martha Ricks visit with the queen in the online journals from Princess Beatrice’s copies dated July 16, 1892. Queen Victoria wrote,
“Negress, 76 years of age who had for 50 years longed to see me, & had saved money to do so, walking a long distance to arrange for her departure. At last she came with friends & Mrs. Byden (also coloured) the wife of the very black Liberian Minr. Brought her. The old [sic] was short & very black, with a kind face. I shook hands with her & she kept holding & shaking mine …”
Queen Elizabeth would send the quilt to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago for display.
The Slavery Abolition Act of Parliament in 1833 abolished slavery in the British Empire (with the exception of a few territories under the control of the East India Company). At Kyra Hick’s suggestion, I did some search on the journal pages with the key word “slavery.” Even before her coronation June 28, 1838, the 18 year-old heir apparent was being briefed by her prime minister, and in other conversations (Melbourne) about “this slavery” as it’s sometimes referred in the journal typed transcripts. But the topic never goes away. After the coronation, the conversation and the Queen’s documentation of it evolves, but from this glance doesn’t give any indication of her own opinion …
“We must seize their ships; that would be a very violent act; and only done with a Nation with whom we have a treaty”, said Lord M. “It would be rather severe to say to a friend”, Lord Melbourne continued, that one great difficulty would be, that if we seized their ships “they will shelter themselves under the Brazilian Flag; well, then we must seize their ships; then they’ll shelter themselves under the Flag of the North American States, with whom we have no treaty, and we must seize their ships; and that wouldn’t be so convenient”; which is very true. Then again they’ll say, Lord M. continued, “We do this to people”(the Portugueze) “because they are weak, what we wouldn’t dare do to those who are more powerful”. We agreed that all this Slave Trade would give us great trouble; that it certainly was a misfortune to find, that all we had done, had rendered it “so much more savage”. Lord M. said he could see, by Wilberforce’s life, that it was constantly preying upon his mind. Spoke of the feeling against Slavery being so much stronger in this country than in any other; he said, some few in France took it up very eagerly; spoke of the feeling of the women in England for it, of the petitions about it signed by so many thousand of females.”