Today, January 22, in 1901, Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight after 63 years on the throne. Victoria had been at Osborne since Christmas, as per her tradition, however by the New Year she didn’t feel well enough to leave. Within three weeks she had passed away at the age of 81.
Three days later, her body was lifted into her coffin by her eldest son and successor, Edward VII; her eldest grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II; and her third and favorite son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Per instruction written out by the Queen in 1897, the funeral was white, she was dressed in a white gown with her wedding veil, and within her coffin was placed a dressing gown that had belonged to her long-dead husband, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; a lock of her Scottish servant’s, John Brown, hair; a ring from the Brown family that Brown had given to her; and various other mementos. The trinkets related to Brown were placed so as to be concealed by her left hand in the hopes they couldn’t be viewed by her family, the majority of whom detested the deceased servant.
Victoria’s funeral was held on February 2 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. After two days of “lying-in-state,” her body was laid to rest in the Frogmore Mausoleum alongside Albert.
At the time of her death, she was the longest reining monarch in English history, a record only surpassed by Elizabeth II on September 9, 2015. She was also the last monarch in the House of Hanover, which reverted to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha upon the accession of her son, Edward VII.
Victoria had spent the majority of her reign – 39 years – as a widow, after a 21 year marriage to Albert. After his death she wore only black and it was a years-long process by her ministers to get her re-invested in governing and be seen in public, a by-product of which was the ceding of a certain amount of authority from the monarch to its government. It’s particularly interesting to consider this in light of the new series on Victoria airing on PBS, which examines the first years of her reign.
All told, Victoria had nine children, 42 grandchildren and 87 great-grandchildren, earning her the moniker of “Grandmother of Europe.” Indeed, her descendants could be found on the thrones of Britain, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Romania, Greece, Spain and Russia, among others.
For more information see From Normandy to Windsor