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Loyal address presented by the theatrical profession on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1887

The occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne provided a special opportunity for expressions of loyalty to be conveyed to the Sovereign, which was enthusiastically taken up.

Thousands of addresses were sent, but not all were kept; and in 1902–03 those that still existed were sent either to the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) if they were from Britain, or to the Imperial Institute if they were from India or the Colonies. Only a few have been kept in the Royal Archives, one being this splendid volume from ‘the Actors and Managers of the United Kingdom’.

This is the precursor to the address presented for King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902 and is equally fine.

This volume, like the other, was bound by Zaehnsdorf, but on this occasion in red morocco leather; the inner boards and end papers are also richly decorated with different coloured leathers and gold inlay, all the decorative work being done by hand-tooling. The front board carries the Royal Coat of Arms (which is repeated on the back board) in the top left-hand corner, and a design of musical instruments, shamrocks, roses and thistles intertwined with theatrical masks, a crown and crossed swords in the bottom right-hand corner.

The single-page Address was designed and executed by H. Burnside and includes a sketch of Windsor Castle, the Royal Arms garlanded with roses, thistles and shamrock, and the masks of Comedy and Tragedy wreathed with ivy and bay leaves. The volume contains pages for 34 London theatres and 110 provincial theatres from 84 towns, although not all the pages bearing signatures are headed by a theatre name. As in the 1902 volume, the decorative designs for the theatre pages are the work of various different artists, and the signatures of Theo. Carreras, Harry Payne, Arthur C. Payne and the initials ‘KB’ appear most frequently. Again like the 1902 volume, the gilt edges of the book are goffered in a floral and horseshoe motif.

Queen Victoria was very keen on the theatre, attending plays in public theatres regularly before her mother’s death in 1861, and thereafter occasionally inviting companies to perform at Windsor Castle. It is not known why these theatrical professionals decided to present such a magnificent address to the Queen, but it is an impressive example of the documents in the Royal Archives connected with the Golden Jubilee. The pages illustrated are those for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and for Sanger’s Amphitheatre, where equestrian circus pantomimes were performed.