skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

4.54 jubilees of Queen Victoria

< Back to Introduction

The golden and diamond jubilees of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1887 and 1897 prompted many pictorial commemorations, which often vaunted the national achievements that had occurred during her reign. A colour lithograph drawn by Tom Merry and titled ‘A Jubilee Reverie: Men Who Have Made My Glory’, was published as a St. Stephen’s Review Presentation Cartoon on 11 June 1887 (Wellcome collection, 570431i), to mark the Queen’s golden jubilee. Here the monarch sits cosily by her fireside, daydreaming about the greatest Victorians in every field of endeavour; Darwin is among those pictured. Ten years later, her diamond jubilee was celebrated more widely across the country, and the Illustrated London News decided to commemorate it in a sumptuous publication, with a text by Sir Walter Besant. Her Majesty’s Glorious Jubilee 1897: The Record Number of a Record Reign was designed to look like an illuminated medieval manuscript, with rich tracery borders to the pages and a text in Gothic script. Yet its message was that this long and ‘glorious reign’ had, through the efforts of its scientists and engineers, witnessed technological innovations in which Britain led the world. Constitutional and dynastic stability provided the conditions for progress, ushering in the modern age. Thus in one of the chromolithographed plates, portraits of Darwin, Lyell and Huxley, together with those of Faraday, George and Robert Stephenson and other ‘giants in science’, appear in medallions set in the ornamental frame, while in the centre there are scenes which illustrate the advances of the past sixty years since Victoria’s accession. Sailing boats have been replaced by steamships, horse-drawn carriages by trains, gas light by electric light and an ‘endless stream of hansoms and buses and bicycles’ – even the first motor cars.  

Darwin’s portrait, apparently based on one of Edwards’s photographs of 1866, is in profile at top left. As so often, he appears intellectually detached from this scientific ensemble and from the viewer. In Sir Walter Besant’s simultaneous publication, The Queen’s Reign and its Commemoration, Darwin again figured in a collective of ‘Representative Scientists and Philosophers of the Reign’, all reproduced in half tone from photographs: his company here being Faraday, Tyndall, Spencer, Lister, Huxley and Kelvin. In this case the photograph of Darwin is one of those taken c.1880 by Elliott and Fry. 

  • physical location Cambridge University Library 

  • accession or collection number Rosenthal.a.90.36 

  • copyright holder Cambridge University Library 

  • originators of images The Illustrated London News expressed its debt to a number of photographic firmsfor permission to reproduce the Pictures and Portraits in this Number’ – Messrs. Graves, Mendoza, Downey, Gunn and Stuart, and Bassano.  

  • date of creation 1897 

  • computer readable date 1897-01-01 to 1897-12-31 

  • medium and material chromolithography 

  • references and bibliography Her Majesty’s Glorious Jubilee 1897: The Record Number of a Record Reign, published by the Proprietors of the Illustrated London News (designed and printed by Orford Smith, St Albans, 1897), plate XI following p. 50, and cf. ‘Science of the Reign’, p. 33. Walter Besant, The Queen’s Reign and its Commemoration (London: Werner, 1897), chapter 5, ‘Representative Scientists and Philosophers of the Reign’. 


In this section: