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Queen Victoria’s one-word tribute to true love Albert on deathbed

Queen Victoria was ‘open-minded’ on marriage says expert

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Queen Victoria reigned as monarch of Great Britain, India and Ireland from 1837. Her death, on January 22, 1901, ended the 63-year period that claimed her name and the longest rule of a British Sovereign until the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight; she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren, including the future King Edward VII and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

In keeping with a custom she had adopted during her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at her Isle of Wight residence, which she and her husband Prince Albert had bought 55 years earlier. There, the couple were able to forge a private life away from the royal court. In 1861, following Albert’s death, Victoria found solace at the home they’d created together.

Known as the ‘Widow at Windsor’, Victoria spent a large part of her life in mourning. The Queen’s diaries describe how reliant the couple were on each other practically, politically and emotionally.

She was devasted when her Prince Consort died and consequently avoided public appearances, rarely stepped foot in London and wore black for the remainder of her life.

While she did undertake official government duties, she chose to spend most of her time in seclusion, travelling between her royal residences — Windsor Castle, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle, the private estate in Scotland she and Albert had bought in 1847.

Throughout the Sixties, Victoria lived largely in self-imposed isolation, causing the public to lose faith and interest in the monarchy and provoking republican sentiment. A series of engagements, including a public parade through London and a grand service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral, and an assassination scare, contributed to the rumblings subsiding and then her popularity subsequently recovering.

Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887, and then her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, making her the first British monarch to reach the milestone. Despite her advanced age, the Queen continued her duties to the end — including an official visit to Dublin in April 1900, eight months before she retired to Osborne House for Christmas.

Through early January 1901, she felt “weak and unwell”, according to her diary, and by mid-January, she was “drowsy… dazed, [and] confused”. Her doctors discovered that Victoria had suffered a series of minor strokes, making it clear that the end was near. Her family travelled to Osborne House to pay their respects.

Her final diary entry was written from the Isle of Wight residence on Sunday, January 13. It read: “Had a fair night, but was a little wakeful. Got up earlier and had some milk. Lenchen [Princess Helena of the United Kingdom, Victoria’s fifth child and third daughter] came and read some papers. Out before 1, in the garden chair, Lenchen and Beatrice [Victoria’s youngest child] going with me. Rested a little, had some food, and took a short drive with Lenchen and Beatrice. Rested when I came in and at 5.30, went down to the Drawing room, where a short service was held, by Mr Clement Smith, who performed it so well, and it was a great comfort to me. Rested again afterwards, then did some signing and dictated to Lenchen.”

The Queen died of a cerebral haemorrhage — a type of stroke — but she had been growing weaker for several years prior. Her eyesight had become clouded by cataracts and she had to use a wheelchair due to rheumatism in her legs.

On her deathbed, the monarch paid tribute to her husband of 21 years. Her final word was said to be “Bertie”, understood to be in reference to Prince Albert who died 40 years earlier. She also whispered that Turi, her Pomeranian dog, be brought to her. At age 81, Victoria died peacefully in her sleep.

The Queen had written instructions for her funeral four years before her death. Her strict plan for the service and ceremony set a precedent for state funerals to this day.

Despite spending her life after Albert’s death dressed in black, the typical colour of mourning, the Queen had dictated her funeral be white.

As the daughter of a soldier and head of the Army, she wanted the procession and funeral to be full military service, meaning her coffin would be carried by gun carriage, the procession would consist of Navy and Army officers and there would be no public lying-in-state.

On January 25, her sons Edward and Arthur, and grandson Wilhelm helped lift her body, dressed in a white gown and her wedding veil, into the coffin.

She requested that family mementoes be placed alongside her, such as Albert’s dressing gown and a plaster cast of his hand.

Victoria’s funeral began on February 2. As she died on the Isle of Wight, her coffin was carried on board the HMY Alberta before being taken to Victoria Station in London.

From there, it was taken in procession to Paddington Station, allowing crowds of spectators to get a last glimpse of the Queen.

A sense of loss had enthralled the country, and as author and historian John Wolffe noted in his book Great Deaths, reactions were “immediate and tangible” with a “sombre mood and suspension of normal activity”.

The coffin travelled by train to Windsor, where it was placed in St George’s Chapel at the castle. On the evening of February 4, it was carried to Frogmore Mausoleum, which she had built for Albert upon his death. Above the building’s doors, Victoria had inscribed: “Vale desideratissime. Farewell most beloved. Here at length, I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again.”

Victoria was the first monarch to be buried outside of Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel since George I, 174 years earlier.

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