The life expectancy in England in the 1800 was definitely brief and common people could consider themselves lucky when they were hitting 45 years old. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha although he was not a common man, lived only until his 42 years old. Apparently dead due to a typhoid fever, recent studies suggest instead he had a lung cancer, which either way killed him rapidly.
Below: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
The sad announcement, which took place in a cold night of December 1861 at Windsor castle, marked forever Queen Victoria (1819-1901), monarch who lived a solitary existence as well as in mourning for the following 40 years of reign.
The queen dressed in black until the 22nd of January 1901, when she died in Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, in the palace where Albert himself had planned the restoration. With her an era was going towards its end, period of huge changes which is remembered with her name; after her kingdom the beginning of the Modern period starts, where the desire of renovation was felt by anyone, starting from fashion and which let to the women obtaining the right to vote.
Below: Queen Victoria in her 80’s , 1899
The funeral which occurred after the Queen’s death followed her instruction thoroughly, drawn up in 1897. The ceremony was of military nature, as it would suit the daughter of a soldier and army chief. Victoria was wearing a white dress, instead of black. On the 25th of January, Edward, William and Prince Arthur duke of Connaught, helped and lifted the body into the coffin.
The Queen was wearing a white dress and the wedding veil from the 1840
Next to her, many objects and memories were buried, some from her extended family, her friends, her servants. By one of her sides they placed a robe of Albert as well as a plaster cast of his hand. On the other side a lock of hair from John Brown (back then it was popular to turn hair and other parts of a dead into jewels), and a picture of him, relics strategically hidden to the family by bouquets of flowers arranged in front of the left hand. Also she wanted a cape embroidered by the princess Alice, her daughter, for her father Albert.
Below: the much loved servant John Brown
The jewels which accompanied Queen Victoria were the wedding ring of John Brown’s mother, given to the Queen by the man in 1883 on his deathbed, worn next to the wedding ring of Prince Albert.
The funeral happened on Saturday the 2nd of February, in the St George’s Chapel at Windsor castle and after two days of national mourning, the Queen was buried by Prince Albert’ side, in the Royal Mausoleum of Frogmore in Windsor Great Park.
Below: the tomb of Victoria and Albert in a postcard from the 20’s
The will of the Queen
As it is evident to notice, the relics of John Brown (her alleged lover) were buried with the Queen in secret from her children, especially from Edward, her successor to the throne. The executor of Victoria’s will was James Reid, her doctor since her last 15 years of life. It was him who made sure that all the 12 pages of instructions prepared by the Queen were respected, including the details less fitting the role of a monarch.
The document with Victoria’s will was kept away by Dr Reid, and only recently the truth has been (partially) revealed. The doctor in fact made sure that all the instructions were followed, including the less appropriate ones. The abundance of flowers, gathered all over the United Kingdom, contributed to the secrecy of the relics.
John Brown and his relationship with Victoria
John Brown (1826 – 1883) was the Scottish personal assistant of Queen Victoria for many years. Many people admired him for his competences as well as the company he would keep to the Queen, while others would despise him for his influence as well as the ease he had with Victoria. The exact nature of the relationship between the two was reason of big speculations and, to this day, remains unsure.
The son Edward VII destroyed any object linked with John Brown as well as the one of Abdul Karim, Indian servant supposedly suspect of the second inconvenient relationship of the Queen. However he didn’t manage to prevent the woman from burying herself with two memories of her loving Brown.
Despite Edward succeeded almost entirely in the Damnatio memoriae played on Brown, he was not able to erase the words that Victoria his mother dedicated to her friend when he was about to die:
“Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant … Strength of character as well as power of frame – the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart … made him one of the most remarkable men. The Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs … the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt…”
No one knows the real nature of the bond between Victoria and John as the two people kept it inside their hearts, bringing the secret with them all the way to the afterlife.