If June 1953 had been a snapshot of a nation imbued with new-found confidence and optimism, the UK of 1977 was anything but.
Britain was mired in debt and industrial problems. The intervening years had seen seismic events around the world (and even beyond it, in the case of man landing on the Moon).
There had been the Suez fiasco, Vietnam and the threat of nuclear war as the USA and Russia squared up against each other.
At home, there had been great highs – like England winning the 1966 World Cup – and horrors, too, including the tragedy that same year in Wales when coal spoil from the mine at Aberfan engulfed the village school.
On the family front, life had been very happy for the Queen.
A beaming smile as the Queen leaves her thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1977 to celebrate her Silver Jubilee
Her majesty smiling in green leaving Fiji during her Royal tour in February 1977, with Prince Philip just visible in the plane behind her
The 50s saw the arrival of the Royal Yacht Britannia, the 60s saw the wedding of Princess Margaret and the arrival of the Queen’s two younger children.
She would celebrate her silver wedding anniversary in 1972 and saw her own daughter marry in 1973.
The 70s were certainly eventful for Princess Anne as she also survived a kidnap attempt, competed at the 1976 Olympics and gave birth to the Queen’s first grandchild, Peter Phillips.
However, what stands out, looking back on the first 25 years of the reign, is the monumental social change at home and abroad.
That cap-doffing, church-going, almost entirely white Britain of 1953 had been through a cultural and demographic transformation during the 60s and 70s.
The age of deference was over, there had been great changes to the laws governing divorce and same-sex relationships while Britain was becoming an increasingly multi-cultural society.
The Queen might not have changed one jot but she wanted her Silver Jubilee to be very different from her Coronation.
CELEBRATIONS FROM SAMOA TO SCOTLAND
Queen Elizabeth meeting schoolgirls on arrival in Brisbane, Australia, during her Silver Jubilee Tour in 1977
The Jubilee officially began on 6 February, the anniversary of her accession. Just a few days later, the Queen began the first of her major Jubilee tours flying to the far side of the world to meet up with the Royal Yacht in Western Samoa.
From there, she revisited many much-loved parts of the Commonwealth, including Tonga.
There she was greeted by King Tupou IV, who had to tighten his belt, literally. He had been on a crash diet ahead of the Queen’s arrival, shrinking from 33st to 28.
There was drama in Fiji when so many people crammed on to a roof at a demonstration of native dance that the roof collapsed.
The Queen stopping for a chat whilst walking through Dudley during her Silver Jubilee Tour of Britain
There were no injuries, except to the pride of the chief of the Walmaro tribe who had been charged with using his ancient powers to prevent rain during the visit. It bucketed down.
The general merriment continued across the Pacific as the Queen drew vast crowds in New Zealand and Australia (where her visit coincided with the Centenary Test, marking 100 years of cricketing rivalry).
She sailed on to Papua New Guinea, one of her newest realms since it had effectively invited her to become monarch just two years before.
Fearful of too much excitement, the local authorities there imposed an alcohol ban ahead of the visit of the woman the locals called ‘Big Fellah Mamma Kwin’ (and her husband, ‘Big Fellah Man Belong Kwin’).
Returning to Britain, the Queen maintained a similar pace across the UK with an address to the joint houses of Parliament and a big tour of Scotland.
The Queen specifically requested to start her tour in Glasgow, on the basis that it was usually Edinburgh that enjoyed the big ceremonial occasions.
During a visit to Govan, she toured a council estate and dropped in on the home of Albert Currie, an engineer, his wife, Mary, a nurse, and their family. ‘I’ve had 14 years on nights,’ Mr Currie told the Duke as he explained his work.
‘But you’ve got three children!’ the Duke replied. ‘I have weekends off,’ Albert shot back.
Her Majesty meets a young girl in Barbados on her final tour of the year, on 1 November, 1977, wearing a green printed dress
The high point of the celebrations would be in London, with a Coronation-style parade through the capital in the Gold State Coach to a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and a ‘river progress’ along the Thames.
Before that, the Queen would walk up Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park to light the first of a chain of bonfires and beacons stretching the length and breadth of the kingdom.
There was so much interest, both domestic and international, that the British Tourist Authority predicted a ‘greatest ever’ influx of between two and three million tourists to the capital.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are presented with a whale’s tooth in Fiji in February 1977
LONDON’S SOLD OUT FOR HER MAJESTY’S BIG DAY
With two days to go, spectators were being advised to book hotel rooms as far away as Winchester and Bury St Edmunds.
The £120-a-night Berkeley Hotel in London, like all the others, was sold out, but one newspaper found a £19-a-night deal at The Bull in Gerrards Cross.
A glorious illustration of the prevailing ‘jobsworth’ attitude among UK workers during the 70s was the decision by the London Tourist Board to shut all its offices for the duration of the bank holiday weekend.
At least certain standards were maintained.
The BBC sent all 38 of its cameramen covering the Queen’s processional route to a gents outfitters to be fitted with proper morning dress. London was, indeed, packed on 7 June 1977.
The first to bed down in The Mall, a full 29 hours before the royal procession, were five teenagers from Ealing. ‘We are following in our parents’ footsteps,’ explained Stephen Johnson, 14. ‘They waited hours for the Queen’s Coronation.’
The Queen meeting people and a friendly corgi during a walkabout in Wellington, New Zealand, wearing an orange satin dress
STREET PARTIES IN FULL SWING EVERYWHERE
At St Paul’s, the Queen was joined by more than 2,700 worshippers, including all the leaders of the Commonwealth who had timed their biennial summit to coincide with the main event.
‘Our nation and Commonwealth have been blessed beyond measure,’ declared the Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, ‘by having at their heart an example of service untiringly done.’
The Mail’s John Edwards noted the poignant sight of Lord Snowdon, placed eight rows behind his two children.
This was just a year after his separation from Princess Margaret (divorce proceedings were by now in hand).
For the Queen, and the Government, the big worry was whether the barmy leader of Uganda, Idi Amin, would make a last-minute appearance (his country was still a member of the Commonwealth).
In the event, he stayed at home. The extended Royal Family were seated beneath Wren’s great dome, from a yawning six-year-old Lord Nicholas Windsor to Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, 95, wrapped in furs.
Afterwards, the Queen and the duke embarked on a euphoric walkabout. ‘You’ll have to be careful that they don’t run you up the flagpole,’ Prince Philip told Hilary Vincent, 19, of Oxted, Surrey, admiring her Union flag jacket.
At the Guildhall lunch that followed, the Queen reminded guests – and an estimated 22 million BBC viewers – of her 21st birthday vow to serve for ‘the whole of my life’. She went on, ‘Although that vow was made in my “salad days” when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.’
The Queen and Prince Philip are greeted by a large crowd at this event in Fiji
By now, parties were in full swing everywhere. The Liberal MP Cyril Smith, then very much a national treasure and yet to be posthumously unmasked as a paedophile monster, led a ‘knees-up’ party in Crosby Street, Rochdale. In Manor Park, east London, the street party would last for 30 consecutive hours to set a new record.
The London Evening Standard toured the capital looking for the most over-the-top street party decorations. Down-at-heel Fulham appeared particularly patriotic.
Prothero Road had hung out two miles of bunting and thousands of Union Jacks while Mirabel Road had a shield on every house.
In Orbain Road, the Mail found that postman Terry Connor, 38, had spent ten days painting every kerbstone an alternate red, white and blue.
It was telling, the Standard observed, that the most lavish celebrations were in traditional working-class areas while ultra-posh Cheyne Walk in Chelsea had such a feeble attempt at a street party that many of its residents had no idea it was even happening.
Two days later, the Queen took to the River Thames in the Royal Barge and received a similarly exuberant reception from the crowds packing the banks.
The Mail was struck by a huge banner overlooking the river, parodying a familiar graffiti slogan that originated in the 70s to assert the pre-eminence of something: ‘EIIR Rules OK’. Meanwhile, at a garden party for pensioners in St James’s Park, The Times discovered several partygoers who could remember the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 80 years before.
After London, the Queen was back on the road around the rest of the country. In the North West, she was feted by 10,000 children at Stockport County Football Club but was late reaching Merseyside because the crowds lining the roads were so large that her driver took a wrong turn off a roundabout in Manchester. More than 200,000 people turned out in Sheffield.
TROUBLES AHEAD WITH A TRIP TO NORTHERN IRELAND
The Queen and Prince Edward cover their ears as a Harrier Jump Jet takes off at RAF Finningley in Yorkshire
For the security services, however, the big headache was Northern Ireland. The Queen was determined to include it on her travels and the IRA were determined to attack her.
With days to go, a Labour MP publicly called on Prime Minister Jim Callaghan to call the whole thing off because the Queen’s trip would coincide with the anniversary of internment, the imprisonment without trial of IRA suspects.
She was having none of it, though she made one concession. For the first time, she would fly in a helicopter (a contraption she loathed) as it was too dangerous to go by road.
On the eve of her arrival, Private Lewis Harrison of the 3rd Light Infantry was shot and killed by an IRA sniper while he was trying to usher a group of women and children away from a suspected bomb.
A total of 32,336 police and troops were on duty the next day. One of them, Major Tobin Duke of the Gordon Highlanders, was shot and wounded by a sniper in Belfast as he attempted to quell a riot.
Having spent the night at sea aboard Britannia, the Queen transferred to a Royal Navy frigate and then flew in to the monarch’s Ulster residence, Hillsborough Castle, and stuck to the programme. Emotions ran high.
She presented a posthumous medal to the widow of a murdered police officer, met a bomb survivor with no legs and met the parents of Judith Cooke, a young civil servant murdered alongside the British ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, the previous year.
At a reception, she met two prominent peace activists from either side of the divide, Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams.
Betty found herself unable to say a word until the Queen broke the ice, telling her that she had ‘proved women can do some things better than men’.
‘A lovely lady with a lot of grace,’ said Betty. ‘She is much more acutely aware of what is happening here than people realise.’
Mairead was much taken with the 17-year-old Prince Andrew, who had joined his parents for the visit.
He was, she said, ‘absolutely dishy with charming manners. I was swept off my feet’.
The following day, stress levels were even higher after the IRA planted a bomb at the University of Ulster at Coleraine where the Queen was due to have lunch.
She pressed ahead with the visit and delivered her main speech of the trip. ‘There is no place here for old fears and attitudes born of history,’ she told the people of Northern Ireland, a tad over-optimistically.
After her traditional summer break at Balmoral, the Queen was back on her travels again.
The Jubilee tour took her to Canada where she encountered separatist protestors in Quebec. In her main speech of the tour, she pleaded for unity: ‘Your ancestors were different in race, religion, language and regional interests.
Could they live harmoniously and productively together?’ She pointed out that they had done so for 110 years. ‘Confederation was not a French idea or a British idea. It was an idea born in this land.’
THE SUPERSONIC SOVEREIGN TAKES TO CONCORDE
The Queen arriving in Mustique, welcomed by Princess Margaret, followed by Prince Philip closely behind
The final big tour was to the Caribbean, where she travelled from island to island in the Royal Yacht.
At the state opening of the tiny parliament of the British Virgin Islands, the Queen delivered perhaps the most homespun Queen’s Speech of her reign as she announced the government’s plans for a new primary school, a new house for the teacher, a new sewage works and a new abattoir.
There was a momentary scare when Britannia anchored off Guana in the British Virgin Islands and Prince Philip set up his barbecue on the beach.
A royal detective went swimming only to encounter a 9ft shark, at which point most of the royal party evacuated the water. Undeterred, the Queen went for a swim soon afterwards.
She also dropped in on the island of Mustique in order to have lunch with her sister, Princess Margaret, at her holiday home there.
The Princess’s new boyfriend, gardener Roddy Llewellyn, was under orders to stay away until the Queen had left and was spotted leaving Britain the following day.
One of the most memorable sights was when Concorde flew out to bring the royal party home and performed a low salute over the Royal Yacht off Barbados.
It was a dramatic end to eight months of Jubilee celebrations which might not have made much difference to Britain’s dire economic circumstances, but did great things for national self-esteem.
It had brought people of all ages together, from dewy-eyed pensioners born in the age of Queen Victoria to long-haired pop fans in flared trousers.
There was the odd misunderstanding along the way. At one point during the Jubilee, the mayor of the London Borough of Hammersmith was furious to see a huge sign outside Earls Court exhibition centre saying ‘Queen In Concert’.
His Worship had no idea that Queen was a pop group and so asked the authorities to remove the sign on the grounds that it was misleading the public.
No one would be making that same mistake 25 years later as the group’s guitarist Brian May strode out on to Her Majesty’s roof…
BATTLE OF THE POETS
In honour of the Silver Jubilee, the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman composed Jubilee Hymn.
Its chorus: ‘For our Monarch and her people/United yet and free/Let the bells ring from ev’ry steeple/Ring out loud the Jubilee.’
The response was withering. The Tory MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn called it ‘the most banal, ninth-rate piece of child’s verse’ and the Daily Mail was similarly underwhelmed. So much so, it offered prizes for the best offerings with an illustrious panel of judges including Kingsley Amis and Laurie Lee.
The paper was inundated. The winner was Once Upon A Chalk White Garden by Philip Brown, an English teacher at a Gloucestershire comprehensive school.
‘It’s got grace and continuity and a charming rocking rhythm,’ said Laurie Lee of Brown’s composition. ‘I like the imagery,’ declared Amis. ‘I’m quite sure it’s the best.’
By Sir John Betjeman
In the days of disillusion/However low we’ve been/To fire us and inspire us/God gave to us our Queen.
For our Monarch and her people/United yet and free,/Let the bells ring from ev’ry steeple/Ring out loud the Jubilee.
She acceded, young and dutiful/To a much-loved father’s throne/Serene and kind and beautiful/She holds us as her own.
And twenty-five years later/So sure her reign has been/That our great events are greater/For the presence of our Queen.
Hers the grace the Church has prayed for/Ours the joy that she is here/Let the bells do what they’re made for/Ring out thanks, both loud and clear.
From that look of dedication/In those eyes profoundly blue/We know her coronation/As a sacrament and true.
ONCE UPON A CHALK WHITE GARDEN
By Philip Brown
Once upon a chalk white garden/Grew a slender, noble stem/Flourished, budded, then threw open/Petals like a diadem…
Now the garden’s changed forever/Wilder grows the leafy world/But the rose still stands in glory/Like a royal flag unfurled.
From the stem so pure and simple/Husbanded with loving care/Came to beautify the garden/Sprigs that gaily flourished there…
The rocks remain: The sky is shedding/Tears of joy, and tears of grief/Still the English rose is glowing/Shaming every darker leaf.
Green and russet leaves resemble/Summer hopes and Autumn fears/But the Spring still follows Winter/As we reach the Silver years…
Seasons pass: The garden changes/Birth gives joy, as some grow old/Let the rose now crowned with silver/Lead us to an Age of Gold.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk