Here's Why Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Is So Significant

If you've never heard of the United Kingdom's tradition of "jubilees," you might think they're just parties. But what a jubilee really encompasses is an entire country celebrating its rulers over a long bank holiday. Jubilees are about more than just parties — and Queen Elizabeth II is about to celebrate a unique milestone as she welcomes her platinum jubilee festivities from June 2-5, 2022 (via The Queen's 2022 Platinum Jubilee website).

According to the Royal Family's website, jubilee celebrations have taken place numerous times throughout the hundreds of years of British royal history. The Royal Mint Museum reports that the first jubilees were held as early as 1300, but there aren't many remaining records to tell us how they celebrated jubilees back then. According to the Royal Family's website, one of the first known jubilees was for King George III, who celebrated his 50-year jubilee in 1809 with fireworks, a huge party, and a stop at St. Paul's Cathedral. 

Who gets a jubilee celebration?

Queen Victoria celebrated gold and diamond jubilees – 50 and 60 years on the throne, respectively — with a Buckingham Palace feast attended by royalty, according to the Royal Family's website. For her gold anniversary, she rode around the country in a horse-drawn carriage, watched fireworks, and gave jubilee brooches to her family members. To celebrate her diamond jubilee a decade later, she held a feast outside St. Paul's Cathedral, then rode through the streets for a 6-mile-long procession of cheering crowds. In 1935, King George V had a silver jubilee to celebrate 25 years as king, which he celebrated with a grand speech to the people who gathered to celebrate (per History).

According to Town and Country Magazine, Queen Elizabeth II's coronation ceremony took place in June 1953. Her father, King George VI, had died in February, and so she inherited the crown. She does not usually celebrate her "Ascension Day" when she became queen. Instead, she tends to spend the day in private to observe the solemn occasion.

The five levels of jubilees

Per the Royal Mint Museum, there are five levels of jubilees for British monarchs. A silver celebration is held when the king or queen reaches 25 years on the throne. Gold marks 50 years, diamond for 60, sapphire for 65. As Sky History reports, Queen Elizabeth was also the first royal to reach the sapphire anniversary. 

According to Town and Country Magazine, Queen Elizabeth is celebrating an extra special milestone: She has now reigned for 70 years. Passing the diamond and sapphire celebrations, Queen Elizabeth's upcoming anniversary is called the platinum jubilee. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson told the magazine that the queen is thankful for the support of her subjects during her time on the throne, and that she hopes to see many people join in the celebrations. Until this year, as History reports, no member of the English Royal Family has actually reached a platinum anniversary before.

Beacons and parties

During the queen's silver jubilee in 1977, more than 4,000 people held parties, per the Royal Mint Museum. The queen began a charitable trust at her first jubilee, and has since donated about £80 million. For that jubilee celebration, she traveled more than 56,000 miles in one year, in a royal procession across the United Kingdom. Blazing beacons (or bonfires), feasts, firework shows, and big parties greeted her from the start of her trip until the end of the journey at St. Paul's Cathedral. After showing up in her Gold State Coach, she and the royal family posed for photos on a balcony at Buckingham Palace. In past years, Queen Elizabeth and her late husband, Prince Phillip, would travel the Thames River by barge to observe the festivities.

So what happens at a modern royal jubilee? Queen Elizabeth had her golden jubilee in 2002, according to Sky History, which included a concert featuring performers like Sir Tom Jones, Sir Rod Stewart, Sir Paul McCartney, and many others.

Big jubilee lunches

Sky History reports that at the last jubilee in 2012, Queen Elizabeth's diamond anniversary, pop stars like Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, and Sir Elton John performed at Buckingham Palace. Royal Mint Museum reports that Queen Elizabeth initiated the "Big Lunch" program in 2012, which encouraged community and sharing food among neighbors.

Per History, the city is going all-out with platinum jubilee celebration plans this year. At the Tower of London, flowers will be piled into the moat to create a massive bed of blooms. Per The Queen's 2022 Platinum Jubilee website, if you want to participate in this year's extra special festivities, there will be plenty to do. People are encouraged to host street parties, attend the "Big Jubilee Lunch" on June 5, or participate in a beacon lighting ceremony. In 2021, trees were grown that can now be planted during the jubilee in the Queen's Green Canopy program – thousands have been planted throughout the United Kingdom through the initiative.

Queen Elizabeth's unique celebration

Children can do arts and crafts, like making their own crown crafts, per The Queen's 2022 Platinum Jubilee website. Community is essential during these events. Big Lunches and Big Jubilee lunches are held in both private and public settings, according to Eden Project Communities, so that people can get to know their neighbors better.

According to the Royal Mint Museum, collectors love jubilee souvenirs, which include stamps, spoons, coins, medals, and other commemorative products. The earliest known commemorative items were created in the 1660s for the coronation of Charles II, and the first "special issue" coins were created to celebrate Queen Victoria's gold jubilee in the 1880s (per The Royal Family's website).

As The Royal Mint Museum notes, no royal has ever lived long enough to surpass the silver, gold, diamond, and sapphire ranks. So this platinum jubilee will be extra special for Queen Elizabeth, who, at 96 years old, is the oldest reigning British monarch ever (per Guinness World Records). And with this anniversary, she will have completed all the jubilee categories, adding to her unique reign.