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Jubilee Year

by Carol Clewlow

‘The people must pay’ is alleged to have been Queen Victoria’s response when Gladstone suggested she shell out for her own Golden Jubilee celebrations. But in 1887, a lot of people didn’t feel like paying.

Queen Victoria Times were hard. The stockmarket was down more than up and in Pall Mall, the jobless and starving were smashing the windows of gentlemen’s clubs. Republicanism was rife. People were openly refusing to stand for the Loyal Toast and a large meeting in Newcastle heard Sir Charles Dilke say the sooner the monarchy was abolished the better.
The Blyth News reported that the attendance at a meeting to raise money for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in Morpeth ‘was neither large or representative.’

Blyth, post miners’ strike, post measles epidemic, was feeling even more bolshie. This we know from John Fraser’s Jubilee Day Comic Programme (price 1d) which lampoons the pomp and processions planned for London.

The initial inspiration for The People Must Pay project, the programme has a bitter edge to it. In it, Thomas Burt MP is listed to deliver an address on ‘the very small income of the Queen’, with Chas Fenwick MP speaking on her ‘generosity in the large sums of money Her Majesty forgot to send towards the Miners’ Union Funds during the late strike...’

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