A Brief, Bizarre History of the Queen's Jubilees

Every time the anniversary of the Queen becoming the Queen hits a big round number, everyone in her realm stops to celebrate the truly undercelebrated woman.
A Brief, Bizarre History of the Queen's Jubilees

(Joel Rouse/Ministry of Defence/Wikimedia Commons)

Every time the anniversary of the Queen becoming the Queen hits a big round number, everyone in her realm stops to celebrate the truly undercelebrated woman. This involves a number of parades, unveiling of new monuments, and surprise celebrity appearances, and as you might expect for the modern celebration of an antiquated institution, things tend to get weird.

The Queen’s Two Birthdays

Baby Queen

(TIME Magazine/Wikimedia Commons)

The Queen’s Jubilees coincide with her “official” birthday, which is an arbitrary Saturday in June even though she was born on April 21, 1926 because April is a meteorologically dicey time for England. Every year, history is rewritten because no one wants to go to a parade in a rainstorm.

The Time The Sex Pistols Crashed

Sex Pistols in 1977

(National Archives of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

Before the Queen’s SIlver Jubilee, which marked the 25th year of her reign in 1977, the Sex Pistols got themselves banned from the radio and dismissed by their record label by releasing “God Save the Queen,” a frothing takedown probably intentionally to be confused with the national anthem. That was more of an achievement in their eyes than a chastening, so during the Jubilee, they jammed on a boat named the Queen Elizabeth down the River Thames in a mockery of the Queen’s own procession a few days later, launching into “Anarchy in the U.K.” as they passed by Parliament. They were promptly arrested and beaten, which kind of proved their point.

When Queen Debuted Their Crown-Shaped Lighting Rig

Some British bands were more patriotic. Naturally, Queen played the last two shows of their A Day at the Races tour at the Silver Jubilee, dedicating the proceeds from both shows to Her Majesty’s charity efforts and unveiling the crown-shaped lighting rig that soon became a fan favorite. They actually named the whole tour for the Queen -- since Thin Lizzy opened for them, it was dubbed the “Queen Lizzy” tour.

The Monument Made From a Discarded Stanley Kubrick Prop

Silver Jubilee Crystal Crown

(Kevan/Wikimedia Commons)

One of the monuments unveiled during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was the Crystal Crown, a sculpture made from the first iteration of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick didn’t like how it looked on film, so it ended up lying around in a storage room somewhere until sculptor Arthur Fleischmann carved a crown into it for the Queen, not a woman known to appreciate secondhand gifts.

The Silver Jubilee On TV

Coronation Street

(Granada Television)

The Silver Jubilee was such a cultural phenomenon that two of Britain’s most popular TV shows devoted episodes to it, with the cast of Coronation Street dressing up as historical royals for their own float and Doctor Who sending its time-traveling scholar to the celebration. The latter actually threw a huge wrench into the continuity of the show, but the producer was too British not to include it.

The Royal Hockey Puck

On the Queen’s royal tour for her Golden Jubilee in 2002, it was decided the best way for Canada to honor her would be to allow her to drop the puck for an exhibition game between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks. She really scuttled her old ass out onto the ice to drop a special puck.

The Queen’s Own Roller Coaster

Jubilee Odyssey

(Calzz/Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, a British amusement park marked the Queen’s 50th anniversary with a new roller coaster called the Jubilee Odyssey (now just “The Odyssey”), the longest suspended coaster in the world at the time. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem Her Majesty ever rode it, as riders soon started complaining of “nipple burn” from the restraints (seriously) and we must protect the royal nips.

The Great Recession Jubilee

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 was significantly pared down, as the U.K. was only a few years out of the Great Recession and nobody really wanted to watch a rich old white woman ride down the street in a literal golden carriage. With a budget of just £1 million, there were some lunches, some fireworks, but nothing on the scale of previous celebrations. Like, they got Paul McCartney, but he played “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

The Banksy Nobody Asked For

"Slave Labour" by Banksy


The toned-down festivities must have been a huge disappointment to Banksy, who had clearly been planning to stick it to those spendthrifty royals for months and decided to just do it anyway with a painting of a “a downtrodden, barefoot boy making Union Jacks on a sewing machine.” Of course, he put it on the side of a dollar store in a working-class neighborhood where no one important would see it and then took a huge chunk out of their wall when he removed it the next day, so basically, it was Banksy being Banksy.

The Platinum Hologram

Queen Elizabeth never did like that golden carriage, which she said was “not very comfortable” and “not meant for traveling at all.” She’s only ridden in it three times: for her coronation, her Silver Jubilee, and her Golden Jubilee. By 2022’s Platinum Jubilee, when the British public was once again amenable to the sight, she was 96 goddamn years old and totally over it, so she sent a hologram of her younger self to wave at onlookers from the carriage, definitely convincing a few of them that the Firm had finally discovered the secret to immortality.

Tea With Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear Platinum Jubilee video

(The Royal Family/YouTube)

A jubilee is always a star-studded event, but one special guest no one expected at the Platinum Jubilee was Paddington Bear. He appeared in a short video, drinking tea straight from the pot and spraying frosting everywhere to Her Majesty’s restrained dismay because the Queen apparently does sketch comedy now.

Queens of the Stonehenge


(Mavratti/Wikimedia Commons)

Even sacred ancient ruins are getting in on the fun, with Stonehenge projecting an image of the Queen in each decade of her reign on eight of its stones. They’re approximately the same age, after all.

Yarn, Legos, and Cake

Some of the weirdest tributes to the Queen, however, are the unofficial ones. This year, devoted subjects have knitted life-size Queens with one of her loyal corgis, built a populated Buckingham Palace at Legoland Windsor, and even baked Her Majesty as a cake. Thank goodness for those bodyguards, or this could end in tragedy when someone attacks the Queen with a knife to show that she’s actually a cake on TikTok.

The Platinum Pudding

The Platinum Pudding

(Jonathon Vines/Wikimedia Commons)

The Jubilee already has an official dessert anyway. The winner of a contest inviting any British resident over the age of eight to submit a recipe was a trifle consisting of layers of lemon curd, jelly, cookies, cake, and custard. In other words, it’s the best you could expect from British taste buds.

Jubilee-Themed Fast Food

The Coronation Chicken Tower Burger


But no one beats the brands when it comes to edible honors. Heinz distributed bottles of their salad cream labeled “Salad Queen,” KFC released a Coronation Chicken Tower Burger, Subway offered a Coronation Tikka Sub, and Pizza Hut created a crown-shaped pizza. Sadly, Americans can’t eat any of this, but at least we have freedom.

Top image: Joel Rouse/Ministry of Defence/Wikimedia Commons

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