Detail from the window in the Upper Library celebrating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Detail from the window in the Upper Library celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Empire Day was celebrated in Britain and her colonies on the 24th May (Queen Victoria’s birthday). Although the date had been celebrated in the colonies from as early as 1902, it was not until 1916 that the date was recognised officially as an annual event by the British Government.

In 1935, Old Shirburnian and former Governor-General of New Zealand, Charles Bathurst, Lord Bledisloe (School House 1883-1886) became President of the Empire Day Movement.  After Bledisloe’s death in 1958, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day as ‘the British Empire had now given way to the noble concept of a Commonwealth of free peoples’.  To find out more about Charles Bathurst visit the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

At Sherborne School, the stained glass window installed in the Upper Library to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 features a motif symbolising the British Empire over which it was said the sun never set. The window was designed by the London firm of stained glass manufacturers, Clayton & Bell.  Find out more about the history of the Golden Jubilee Window in the Upper Library.

A poem celebrating Empire Day was published in the school magazine, The Shirburnian, in July 1910:

Ouate, imperialis orta festast,
Voces tollite, principes Britanni
Terrarum, domini maris ualentes!
At laetos super atra cura pendet;
Cur subuersa grauis tenetur hasta?
Eduardus iacet in pyra leuatus,
Pacis munera qui potens profusit
Per gentes hominum ferociorum.
Huius sis memor, ah Britanne, uitae,
Seruare officiumst tuum salutem
Tam magnae ditionis atque honorem:
Diuisi maribus manete fratres.
Fidelesque parebimus tibi, qui
Tanti filius imperes beatus,
Georgi maxime Rex et Imperator!

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist

Visit Sherborne School Archive News for more stories from the archives.

Posted 24 May 2017 by Sherborne School Archives.

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