The British Empire celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’ s accession to the throne on 21 June 1887. Malta commemorated the event by erecting a statue in her honour, whilst Gozo on the initiative of its eminent citizents, Mgr Pietro Pace, the island’s bishop and Sir Adrian Dingli, the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal, felt that this Jubilee should be commemorated in a more fitting manner. So they formulated a petition soliciting Her Majesty to concede that Rabat be declared a city and renamed Victoria.
On 19 march 1887, the bishop forwarded the petition to the General Sir John Arabin Lintorn – Simmons. The Governor of Malta with sixty eight signatures appended. On 19 May 1887, the Secretary of State for the colonies, Sir Henry Holland, informed the Governor that ‘Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to consent to the request of the Gozitans’.
The Jubilee celebrations in Gozo were held on Sunday 29 May. At the Cathedral, Pietro Pace, Bishop of Gozo, sang a solemn Te Deum and offered prayers for the preservation of Her Majesty and the royal family. In the afternoon horse and donkey races were held, whilst later in the evening, the two civic bands La Stella and Il Leone delivered musical programmes. The celebrations came to an end by a display of fireworks.
The dispatch from London had not reached Valletta in time for the celebrations. The reply was communicated to the Bishop of Gozo on 4 June and it was made public on 10 June.
His Excellency the Governor directs it to be notified that Her Majesty the queen, in compliance with a prayer of a petition signed by the Lord Bishop of Gozo, the members’ of the Chapter, and of the principal inhabitants of Gozo, has been graciously pleased to consent to the town of Rabat in that Island being on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Jubilee officially declared a City and its name changed into that of VICTORIA
This Government Notice of 10 June 1887, issued by the authority of the Governor of Malta, General Sir John Arabin Lintorn-Simmons, changed by a stroke of a pen the centuries old name of the town of Gozo and officially declared it a city.
Later that same year a dolphin fountain with a commemorative inscription was erected upon the Citadel Square. At the same time; the centuries old emblem of Rabat was altered to include the letters VR, Victoria Regina at the top. The city’s new name began to be used in official documents and in international gazetteers, but, young and old Gozitans still refer to the city of Gozo by the old name of Rabat.