Seeing as Queen Victoria had been on the throne for 64 years, Britain had gone for quite a long time without a monarch’s funeral. As such, there was plenty of room for Victoria to break with tradition regarding how royal funerals were held. She hadn’t been someone who just sat on her throne and sipped tea while eating crumpets all day long. Queen Victoria was the daughter of a soldier and had turned the British Empire into a formidable global force. She was not only the queen of Great Britain but also the Empress of India, at the time a British colony. Her funeral was not to be a church service but somewhat akin to one given for a soldier.
Instead of dukes serving as pallbearers, as had traditionally been done for royal funerals, Victoria requested that equerries â equestrians who served the royal household â be the ones to handle her coffin. The casket was transported via a gun carriage, which is a mount used for heavy artillery, down the streets of London in a military procession. Her funeral broke so heavily with tradition that it set the stage for how state funerals are now conducted, not only in Britain but throughout the world.
15. Queen Victoria Didn’t Want to Lie Publically in State
Public figures tend to go through periods in which they lie in state in an open area so that people who admired them have the opportunity to pay their final respects. However, Queen Victoria had mostly retired from public life following the death of Prince Albert, at least to the extent that she didn’t want to be followed by paparazzi or have people outside of the royal household privy to personal information. As you have already seen, she was so secretive that she didn’t even want her family members to know some of the contents of her coffin, like the mementos of her affair with John Brown.
In keeping with how she had lived her life, the queen did not want to lie in state for public viewing. Instead, her body was carried on the gun carriage straight from where she died in the Isle of Wight to her funeral at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. She did lie in state for two days, but viewings were closed to the public. What this meant was that, even though her funeral was one of the largest in world history, it was primarily a family affair and much more intimate than previous royal burials.
16. The House Where She Died Was the Site of Many Seances
The Victorian Era witnessed a surge of interest in spiritualism, particularly regarding the occult and the attempt to communicate with the dead through psychics, mediums, and seances. People from all strata of society, from the poorest of the poor up to the royal household, were caught up in the fervor. In fact, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were party to many seances and even held some at their private residence, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. They were particularly fond of an older clairvoyant named Georgiana Eagle and a young one named Robert Lees.
The story goes that the 13-year-old Robert Lees participated in one of the family’s seances shortly after the death of Prince Albert. He began to channel Albert’s spirit and recalled information known only between him and the queen, including a pet name that he used to call her. Victoria knew that many mediums were frauds, but when she had Lees thoroughly investigated, he came out clean. He was invited to the palace nine times and was even asked to become the palace’s resident medium. He declined the request.
The queen died at Osborne House, the place where her late husband’s spirit had supposedly been conjured.
17. Queen Victoria’s Coffin Was Topped With a British Flag
Queen Victoria indeed was an enigma in many ways. She brought the British Empire to the height of its power, especially by solidifying its control over India. She ruled over what was possibly the largest empire the world had yet seen. Nevertheless, her personal life told a story that was less traditional and even less dignified than what one might expect from one of the most powerful women in the world. Her relationship with Prince Albert created fodder for public gossip, and even after she resigned from letting her personal life be on display, her affair with John Brown created quite a scandal among members of her family.
Still, she was the quintessential British monarch. Despite the somewhat morbid, bizarre, and creepy contents of her coffin, it was draped over with the most British symbol of all: the Union Jack. The flag is what most people saw during her funeral procession, and if you were to visit her coffin today, which is at her mausoleum at Frogmore Estate in Berkshire, nothing on the outside would indicate its strange contents. By all accounts, you might think that you are looking at the perfectly normal coffin of one of Britain’s greatest monarchs.
However, of course, nothing is at it seems.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: