“Remember, Remember Empire Day, the 24th of May”

There’s no such thing as the British Empire any more, and we’re more used to reading about our royal family in the tabloids these days than we are in loyally celebrating their majesty, so it is perhaps hard to imagine that for 50 years, Empire Day was a massive national, and international celebration. Introduced in 1902, the year after Queen Victoria’s death, and celebrated on her birthday, the 24th May, this was an occasion for demonstrating pride in the British Empire that spanned a quarter of the globe, and generally having a good time.

And aside from the street parties, bonfires and fireworks, this Day was designed to “promote the systematic training of children in all virtues which conduce to the creation of good citizens”. Sounds a little sinister now, but every year, all across the world, schoolchildren would salute the Union Jack, sing the national anthem and hear exciting tales of the bravery and exoticism of Empire. Although it’s a fair bet that the thing they liked best was being let off school early to go to the parades…

We may not have an Empire any more, and they might have re-named the celebration “Commonwealth Day” since the ‘50s, but that’s no reason not to celebrate, we don’t think. Obviously, it’d be a little odd to rejoice in the taking-over-the-world, saluting-the-flag part of things, but perhaps more worthwhile to remember the peculiarly British watchwords of the Empire Movement – “Responsibility, Sympathy, Duty & Self Sacrifice”. Not the most inspirational of battle cries, but worth raising an ice cold gin & tonic to this May 24th, perhaps. Or maybe just a nice cup of tea…

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2 Responses to ““Remember, Remember Empire Day, the 24th of May””

  1. Gabriel says:

    Nice to read about such a healthy attitude towards the Empire and jingoism in general. The British evolution from flag-waving, imperialist Blighty to modern-day, multi-coloured nation -and I’m sorry about the clichés- is truly exemplary. Some would argue it is not yet finished -enter euroscepticism- but I do look up to a society that has faced its own recent past with such honesty and a critical eye.
    ..on a lighter note, my ipod leather cover is wonderful -looks brand-new after months of heavy.duty usage! Congratulations to Proporta for that as well!.

  2. James says:

    I still enjoy an Empire Day party with my chums every year. We put up bunting, sing patriotic songs and salute the flag. I usually cook up some lethal punch to make the proceedings go with a bang. A great day to celebrate the might and glory of the British Empire – smaller than it once was, but still thoroughly noble.

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