Tuesday 5 October 2010

R.D.Blumenfeld on the Golden Jubilee

R.D.Blumenfeld was a famous newpaper-man (see Wikipedia). He came to England in the 1880s from America, and, consequently, his diaries, written with a certain journalistic flair, from a stranger's perspective, contain numerous great insights into life in the Victorian capital.

I'm going to digitise some bits and pieces from them, so here goes ... we start with his experiences of the 1887 Golden Jubilee:

Tuesday, June 21, 1887

Wonderful day for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebration. I spent most of last night wandering through the streets to observe the decorations and preliminary illuminations. The gas-lit streets looked brilliant. Holborn, which with great enterprise, has electric street lighting, particularly attractive; walking from the Inns of Court Hotel in Holborn at eight o'clock this morning in order to take up my place in thre window at the foot of Haymarket, opposite Her Majesty's Opera House [now Carlton Hotel], bu the crowd was so dense that I could get no further than Waterloo Place, facing my window, and that I was stuck in the heat until long beyond noon after the procession had passed. I climbed up the statue of King George, but could not maintain myself and came down. But I got a good view of most of the procession. The Queen's face was hidden from me by a sun-shade. The crowd round me seemed to be much interested in a dour-faced, heavily-kilted royal gillie who sat behind. He looked unperturbed and rather grim. A good many onlookers mistook him for John Brown, but he died some years ago.
    I thought the German Crown Prince [Emperor Frederick], in his silver helmet  and shining cuirass, the most striking figure in the procession. Thhe young Princes, Edward [Duke of Clarence] and George [King George V], were a popular feature in their naval uniforms. It was my first glimpse of some of the Ministers. I had never seen Lord Herschell, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Randolph Churchill, Lord Knutsford, Mr. Matthews, the Home Secretary, nor Lord Spencer, who is generally known as the Red Earl by virtue of his enormous red beard.
    In the crowd beside me stood George Giddens, an actor who is appearing at the Criterion Theatre with Mr. Charles Wyndham in David Garrick. He knew every one in the procession, and I was not obliged to refer to my programme sheet. Giddens had been invited to sit in a window of the Opera House, but could not reach it. I recognised one of the lucky ones in a window of the steamship office where I had also taken a place. This fortunate one who had come earlier was Mr. James G. Blaine, the American Secretary of State, the famous "plumed knight," who would have been President but for the disastrous phrase: "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," which an ardent supporter of his launched against the Democratic Party, and so lost the Roman Catholic vote to Mr. Blaine.
    I drove round London to-night in a curricle with Walter Winans inspected the fireworks. I have never seen so many people; certainly never so many drunken ones.

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