What secrets did she carry to her grave?

The painting of Queen Victoria on her deathbed.

Queen Victoria was well-versed on and entranced by the burial methods of the ancient Egyptians.

Opinions of death and methods of grieving were a bit different in Victorian times as we are well aware.  Although an elite royal, Queen Victoria, herself, did not escape from the bizarreness of the times.  Like many of her contemporaries, the Queen had a robust interest in the occult, to boot.

There is a beautiful portrait of Queen Victoria that was accomplished with light, splashy, brush strokes.  The artist is Sir Hubert von Herkorner.   Several lovely portraits of the queen exist, but what is unique about this one is that it depicts Queen Victoria on her deathbed. 

The queen pre-planned her burial and funeral.  In fact, she dictated a twelve-page instruction manual to explain the details of her wishes.  They were secret and even her family members were not to know the exact contents of the instructions.    She trusted her personal physician, Dr. James Reid to carry out her wishes, and Sir James assured her that he would.

Unless you have made a study of her, you probably don’t know that Victoria wanted to be buried with a large number of personal possessions.  Some relics were selected for sentimental reasons, perhaps some were for religious reasons, and some, maybe for occult reasons.   She was well-versed on and entranced by the burial methods of the ancient Egyptians.

After Prince Albert died, his wife tried to keep his memory alive for years.  She had his clothing laid out every day, table settings put out for him, his shaving implements were even set up.  Albert’s dressing gown was a favorite of Victoria’s.  She wanted the dressing gown to go in the bottom of her burial casket, with a thick layer of charcoal on top of it, then, she wanted to be placed on that.  The charcoal was probably to be an air freshener.  She had done her research.

Another item she wanted placed next to her was an embroidered cloak that her daughter had made for Albert.  Alice and Albert were close.

She wanted great quantities of flowers placed on and around her.  They were brought in from all over the world as the end drew near in 1901.  Some of the flowers had the purpose of covering up the relics that were with her in the casket, including a picture.

After Albert was gone, it was conjectured that Victoria had one or more lovers.  One was John Brown who was a servant from Scotland that was very supportive and caring when Albert died.  Brown also was an unofficial advisor.  Victoria wished to have a picture of Brown in the casket with her.  She also wished a sprig of heather pinned to her dress.  Some felt it was a tribute to Brown’s Scotland, and some felt it was an additional air freshener.

Although Queen Victoria was known for wearing black much of her life, she stipulated that she wanted her burial attire to be white, including a bride-like veil.

She wanted the rest of the funeral to also have a white, almost wedding, theme.  

She wore wedding rings on two hands.  Her wedding ring for Albert was on her left hand, and a symbolic wedding ring for John Brown was on her right.  To complete the hand theme, for lack of better terminology, Victoria wanted a plaster cast of Albert’s hand to be held in her own hands.

Then there were the locks of hair.  She requested to have a locket placed near her that had both a lock of her own father’s hair and a lock of Albert’s hair.  She had a separate lock of John Brown’s hair that she wished placed nearby.

She wanted her favorite jewelry, much of it clunky, to be placed on or around her—not all of it was choice.  She had favorite bracelets, brooches, and even some jewelry Albert had made for her of pebbles from Balmoral Castle.

Victoria also requested that her funeral rites, not center on the church, but be more military in nature.  She was the daughter of a soldier and was the reason England had become a great military presence.   She was also the Empress of India.  Her casket would be transported on a gun carriage, and the Union Jack would be draped on the top.  Pallbearers would be the equestrians of the royal estate—equerries— and not dukes and earls.

When Albert died, Victoria took her own money and had a stone effigy of him sculpted to top his coffin.  She had one made for herself at the same time.  Since she was still alive, she had her own effigy put in storage.  Although it was her express direction to have the stone effigy put on her coffin upon her death, its whereabouts could not be located for quite some time.  When it was, and placed, the reclining figures faced each other and are located at Frogmore Estate in Berkshire.

Although Queen Victoria lived a long life, to age 80, she did not die quickly and was bedfast for a spell at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.  This house was the scene of many of her earlier séances.  The last days of her life she suffered mini-strokes and she did not want to speak to anyone, including family, wanting only the company of her dear Pomeranian pup, Turi.   It must then be assumed that Herkorner could not sneak in and paint the scene as she lay dying.  It is most probable that he worked from a post-mortem photograph that he took himself—there is one, but no one knows the photographer—it was most probably Sir Hubert. 

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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