French: Fête de la Reine) is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. The date is also, simultaneously, that on which the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday is recognized. It is sometimes informally considered as marking the beginning of the summer season in Canada.
The birthday of Queen Victoria was a day for celebration in Canada long before Confederation, with the first legislation regarding the event being in 1845 passed by the parliament of the Province of Canada to officially recognize May 24 as the Queen's birthday. It was noted that on that date in 1854, the 35th birthday of Queen Victoria, some 5,000 residents of Canada West gathered in front of Government House (near present day King and Simcoe Streets in Toronto) to "give cheers to their queen." On May 24, 1866, the town of Omemee, also in Canada West, mounted a day-long fête to mark the occasion, including a gun salute at midnight, pre-dawn serenades, picnics, athletic competitions, a display of illuminations, and a torch-light procession.
Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, May 24 was by imperial decree made Empire Day throughout the British Empire, while, in Canada, it became officially known as Victoria Day, a date to remember the late queen, who was deemed the "Mother of Confederation". Over the ensuing decades, the official date in Canada of the reigning sovereign's birthday changed through various royal proclamations until the haphazard format was abandoned in 1952. That year, the Governor-General-in-Council moved Empire Day and an amendment to the law moved Victoria Day both to the Monday before May 25, and the monarch's official birthday in Canada was by regular vice-regal proclamations made to fall on this same date every year between 1953 and January 31, 1957, when the link was made permanent by royal proclamation. The following year, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day and in 1977 it was moved to the second Monday in March, leaving the Monday before May 25 only as both Victoria Day and the Queen's Birthday.
Thames River, near London, Ontario. The boat departed in the evening with 600 to 800 people on board — three times the allowable passenger capacity — and capsized part way across the river, drowning some 182 individuals, including a large number of children who had been with their families for Victoria Day picnics at Springbank Park. The event came to be known as the Victoria Day disaster."
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