Nottingham City Council
About this image
The children are arranged to form the Union Jack. Empire Day celebrated the achievement of Britain in establishing the British Empire. For many years at the beginning of the 20th century June the first was often celebrated as Empire Day, although Empire Day was first celebrated in Britain in 1902 on May 24th. The notion of making 24 May (Queen Victoria's birthday) a celebration of empire originated in Canada in the late 1890s. An Empire Day for children had been started by the head mistress of a Canadian school who proposed that such a day should be celebrated in schools by patriotic exercises, readings and addresses. This idea was followed up in Britain by Reginald Brabazon, the twelfth Earl of Meath, who resolved to spread the movement throughout the Empire. On 21 July1902, a cable appeared in the newspapers: 'The Earl of Meath has suggested that an Empire Day holiday should be observed' for schoolchildren only...May 24th, the birthday of Queen Victoria, stands out as especially suitable'. Empire Day was celebrated by patriotic gatherings, public luncheons, church services and special ceremonies in all state schools in the Commonwealth. As attachment to the empire waned, so too did the significance of Empire Day, and in 1958 its name was changed to British Commonwealth Day. In 1966 it changed again, this time to Commonwealth Day, and the date moved from 24 May to 11 June to coincide with the 'official' birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.