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Queen Victoria - Death of Albert and Its Aftermath

Victoria and Albert needed privacy and found a wonderful getaway on the Isle of Wight.  Albert redesigned Osborne House, and Victoria loved the home for the rest of her life.  

With a private beach, where the family could swim and boat, Victoria and Albert spent their birthdays on the island.  It was a great place to relax.

Then, in 1861, Victoria had an annus horribilius (as Elizabeth II once described her "horrible year" of 1992).  In March, the Queen's mother died.  Soon after, Albert became sick - likely with typhus.  Unbelievably, the diagnosis was kept from them.

On the 14th of December, Victoria realized that her husband was nearing the end of his life.  When he died, at the age of 42, he was babbling about green fields.

After Albert died, nothing was ever the same for Victoria.  Absolutely devastated, she appeared calm, initially.  Soon, however, she observed: 

My life as a happy one is ended.  The world is gone for me.

Descending into the world of the chronically bereaved, Victoria did not appear in public.  The depressed Queen instructed her staff to keep her husband's rooms exactly as he had left them.  Soon rumors circulated that Her Majesty was going mad.

For the next thirteen years, Victoria saw little of her ministers or her people:  

  • She refused to open Parliament, and her subjects were getting annoyed with her. 
  • Even though she was wallowing in grief, she refused to give up the throne. 
  • She also refused to allow her son, Edward, to share power. 

Posters started appearing in London, noting that Buckingham Palace was available "To Let."

Feeling most comfortable at Osborne House, Victoria escaped daily scrutiny by spending time on the Isle of Wight.  Gladstone, when he was Prime Minister, called Osborne House "the Great Enemy."

One of the Queen's servants - John Brown - also became her protector.  Intensely loyal to Victoria, Brown had a familiar tone with visiting ministers which they detested.  

Even though the Queen didn't make it easy for her ministers, they had to work around her eccentricities.  Benjamin Disraeli observed that he was always cold when he attended her at home.  (The Queen didn’t like heated houses.)   It was Disraeli, however, who finally found a way to re-engage Victoria in public life.

The answer, as it happens, was India.  Victoria grew to love her new title, "Empress of India."

The Queen was still "Empress of India" when she suffered a series of strokes during late January of 1901. She died on January 22 of that year, at the age of 81. 

To mark her death, The Economist said this (among other things) about the long-reigning Queen:

There have been but few good Queens Regnant in modern Europe, and of these few Isabella of Castile was a priest-ridden bigot, Elizabeth of England was often a tyrant, Queen Mary of the Revolution was false to her filial duty, Queen Anne was as much the slave of her ill-chosen friends as kings have often been of their mistresses, Maria Theresa nearly ruined Europe by her vindictiveness.

Queen Victoria stands out alone without a blemish as a Sovereign, without a disqualification for reigning, the only one whom, for the last thirty years of her life, her millions of subjects, the conquerors and the conquered alike, would have chosen by plebiscite to occupy the throne. Their depth of sorrow at her death—a sorrow curiously increased by a sense of surprise, as if they had expected a lady of eighty-two to be some-how exempted from mortality—is amply justified.

They will never see such a Sovereign again, and it is not a reign, but an era, which closes with her life. (Economist, published 26 January 1901.)

When she died, her son Edward and her grandson Emperor Wilhelm II (of Germany) were at her bedside. She left very specific instructions on the items which she wanted placed in her coffin. The BBC tells us what they were:

She requested that Albert's dressing gown and a plaster cast of his hand be placed in her coffin. She also asked for a lock of John Brown's hair and his picture to be put in her hand. Lastly she left orders that Abdul Karim be among the principal mourners at her funeral. She was an indomitable monarch who, even at the end, was adept at getting her own way. (See "The end of the Victoria age," the last entry of the BBC's "iWonder" story on "Queen Victoria: The woman who redefined Britain's monarchy.")

After Victoria's death, her son became King Edward VII.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5156stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 27, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jan 01, 2017


Media Credits

Clip from Kings and Queens - Victoria, 1837 - 1901 (2002).  Online, via BBC and YouTube.  Copyright, 2 Entertain Video, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the series.

Narrator:
Nigel Spivey

Series producer:
Marion Milne

Director and Producer:
Michael Waterhouse

 

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