Queen Victoria, Monarch of Great Britain from June 1837 – January 1901
Empire day (now: “Commonwealth Day”) is a celebration held on the second Monday of March each year in Commonwealth countries. The celebration has its historical roots as a reminder to citizens that they formed part of the British Empire, and it gave the Monarch’s subjects a chance to show their pride and loyalty towards being a member of the Commonwealth. Considered as early as 1897, and celebrated in 1902, Empire day was officially instituted by the United Kingdom in 1904, which extended throughout the countries of the commonwealth.
The flag of the Commonwealth of Nations
Members of the Commonwealth would enjoy this day through several means, including the use of fireworks, attending community events such as parades and marches, and even gathering around large bonfires with relatives, friends, and members of their community. The Crown would also partake in celebrations. Even to this day, Queen Elizabeth II, as head of the Commonwealth, addresses commonwealth nations each year via international radio broadcast, and has even traveled to various locations to make her address.
Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey, 2009
Today, the event is referred to as ‘Commonwealth Day’, and is not celebrated to the same extent as it once was. There is no worldwide uniform celebration. For a now largely forgotten anniversary, a chant exists that, perhaps, only the grandparents of Commonwealth citizens may recall: “Remember, Remember Empire Day, the 24th of May!” (The 24th of May referred to Queen Victoria’s Birthday).
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