Britain between the Wars, 1918-1940

By Charles Loch Mowat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
Great Reversals: 1935-1937

1. JUBILATE

THOUGH there was little in the affairs of Europe to rejoice the heart in the spring of 1935 there was a feeling of holiday and relaxation in Great Britain. The worst of the depression was over. It was a moment for retrospection, for a joyful commemoration of the quarter-century of King George's reign. Within two years the old king had died and his successor had abdicated. Within the same two years Europe moved from belief in the possibility of peace to a dull acceptance of the certainty of war.

To celebrate a mere twenty-five years' reign, a silver jubilee, was unprecedented, and some critics saw in it another stunt of the National government to restore its lost popularity. The critics were soon confounded. There was all the pageantry, in London and the country, in town and village, in the Dominions and the outposts of empire, which could do homage to a king who was also the symbol of the Commonwealth's unity: the processions and reviews, the church services, the planting of trees. There was the great procession on Monday, May 6, to St. Paul's Cathedral, where a service of thanksgiving was held. London's streets were decorated, and at night its historic buildings floodlit for the first time.

Not these, but the response of all the people made the jubilee impressive. In London, as a correspondent observed, the most remarkable feature was the demonstrations of enthusiastic loyalty in the back streets. 'For miles on end every street was decorated, every house covered with bunting -- across the streets festoons hung so closely that one could hardly see the sky.' The working class was en fête, and children feasted at flower-decked tables at every street corner. Citizens in their thousands sent letters of congratulation to the King.1 King George and Queen Mary -- the

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1
New Statesman, May, 11 1935; for the celebrations see especially the Illustrated London News during May, 1935; also R. Graves and A. Hodge, Long Week-end, pp. 316-17; Philip Gibbs, England Speaks, pp. 4-12; John Gore, King George V, p. 429; H. Nicolson, King George the Fifth, pp. 524-5.

-532-

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