A Funeral in White

Portrait of Queen Victoria by Sir William Nicholson, RA (LEO Design)

As England’s longest-reigning monarch (to date), Queen Victoria’s passing was a significant moment in that country’s history and, naturally, required a funeral befitting her legacy.

As was her custom, the Queen had spent Christmas 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, just off the southern coast of England.  The residence, created in the manner of an Italian palazzo, had been designed by her husband, Prince Albert, who had died some 39 years earlier.  The Queen, now lame with rheumatism and partially blind with cataracts, felt unwell in January and had become drowsy and confused by the middle of the month.  She died on 22 January at the age of 81.

Victoria had planned her funeral a few years earlier; it was to be a military funeral (befitting a soldier’s daughter and the head of the military) and she had instructed that white, not black, was to be the dominant color.  Thus, she was dressed in white—and wore her bridal veil—as her son, Edward VII helped lift her body into her coffin.  According to her instructions, various mementos were enclosed in her coffin including photos and personal objects of her family and servants.  Tucked into her left hand was a photo of John Brown and a lock of his hair—concealed from view by a bouquet of carefully arranged flowers.

On this day in 1901, her funeral was held at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.  It was a bitterly cold day and the horses, having stood in the cold for hours, began to get restless. Sensing a dangerous situation, a group of sailors took-up the horses’ task and pulled through the streets the gun carriage bearing the great Queen.

As she was laid to rest in Frogmore Mausoleum, next to her husband, Prince Albert, the snow began to fall.  More white.

The print shown above is by Sir William Nicholson.  It was published in 1901, the year the Queen died.