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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s burial instructions, 9th December 1897

Updated: Mar 9

Queen Victoria on her death bed dated 1901, Emil Fuchs © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III

During 1871 Queen Victoria suffered a long illness which often made her unable to lift herself or walk. Due to this bout of illness The Queen wrote on the 6th December 1875 instructions in case of her serious illness. She wrote -

"The Queen wishes Sir William Jenner to understand that it is her command that in case of serious illness she should only be attended by her own Doctors who always attend her, only calling in, after consultation with Princess Beatrice (supposing she was too ill to be herself consulted), any such Doctor or Surgeon whom her own professional Physicians knew the Queen liked, or thought fit to consult, or who was not a total stranger to herself, and not to yield to the pressure of any one of her other children, or any of her Ministers, for any one they might wish to name.

The Queen's daughters Princess Helena, Princess Louise and Princess Beatrice are fully aware of her wishes on the subject. She wishes to add (which they likewise know) that she absolutely forbids anyone but her own four female attendants to nurse her and take care of her, as well as her faithful Personal Attendant, John Brown, whose strength, care, handiness, and gentleness make him invaluable at all times, and most peculiarly so in illness, and who was of such use and comfort to her during her long illness in 1871, in lifting and carrying and leading her, and who knows how to suggest anything for her comfort and convenience.

The Queen wishes no one therefore but J. Brown, whose faithfulness, tact and discretion are not to be exceeded, to help her female attendants in anything which may be required for her. In case he should require assistance, Lohlein, her other personal attendant, and failing him any one person who Brown can entirely rely on, should give it. Princess Beatrice, from living always with the Queen, is the one who is to be applied to for all that is to be done. If it is necessary to send for anyone of the rest of the family, it is on the express understanding that her wishes expressed in this memorandum should be strictly adhered to, and in no way departed from.

Her Physician should likewise inform the Prince and Princess of Wales, and any of her sons should they be there, of these her wishes, especially regarding the calling in of any additional medical man. Her Privy Purse and Private Secretary should also be made aware of the Queen's orders on this point, so that they can resist the interference of any Minister. The Queen wishes never to be deceived as to her real state. This is to remain in force till such time as the Oueen asks for this Memorandum."

By 1897 her health was failing alongside her worsening eyesight and mobility, she was bound to a wheelchair and could hardly see. With the reality of death looming over Victoria, she decided to write 12 pages of specific instruction that detailed how her funeral and burial should take place. Almost all of her courtiers and subjects had never had a monarchs funeral during their lifetime, thankfully Victoria wrote detailed instructions on how she wanted the funeral and burial to be carried out. Alongside her official instructions she also left private instructions to her physician Sir James Reid, she left these private instructions as her family would object to them.

On the 9th December 1897 The Queen wrote her official instructions, these were to be left for her Dressers and family.

"Instructions for my Dressers to be opened directly after my death and to be always taken about and kept by the one who may be travelling with me: when all are there the Senior always to keep it."

The instructions -

"I wish to be buried in a white silk or cashmere dress, with a cap and white veil over my face with my wedding ring on and my diamond guard ring, given me by my beloved husband immediately after our marriage, and the plain gold ring with a single diamond in it, and the words Dieu La Garde' on it - the gift of my beloved Mother - my engagement ring with an emerald in the head of a golden snake, given to me by my dearly beloved Husband - Oct. 15 - 1839 - one similar to which (my gift) was buried with Him, - and an oxidised silver ring with my dear Husband's enamel, a small green enamelled ring, the first gift my dear Husband ever gave me - May 24 - 1836 - A gold ring with 3 Turquoises and 2 diamonds the gift of my dearest sister, a ring with five Scotch pearls, the gift of my dear daughter Louise, a small gold one with three pearls and small diamonds, the gift of my darling child Beatrice - all continually worn by me - as well as a plain gold wedding ring which had belonged to the Mother of My dear valued servant J. Brown, and was given him by her in 75 - which he wore for a short time and I have worn constantly since his death - to be on my fingers.

I wish the small chain which I always wear round my neck - and to which are attached a diamond Locket containing my beloved Husband's hair, which was given me in 1839 by my Aunt, the late Queen Louise of the Belgians, which I have worn ever since, and seven small Lockets, 2 of which with painted Photographs of my beloved Husband and dearest Mother, and the others containing the hair of near and dear ones, would be placed on the same chain which is to be worn round my neck - as well as any other small Lockets which might hereafter be added - I wish a small granite one set in gold containing a piece of Balmoral heather and the hair of a friend, which is attached to my watch chain, to be added to this chain - also a small quartz heart - 3 golden lockets, one of these containing the hair of our valued friend Baron Stockmar who died in 1863 - Another with a diamond in the centre containing the hair of my dear friend the late Countess Blucker, and one in gold and a pearl in the centre, containing the hair of my dear friend the late Lady Augusta Stanley to be attached to a small golden chain to be worn on my right arm - A round blue Enamel Locket containing the hair of my 9 children which I always wear when I am in mourning, as well as a bracelet of plain gold with a single Turquoise on it, which had belonged to my dearest Mother, to be on my left arm.

One of the Brooches, the gift of my dearest Husband, to be selected by Beatrice to be fastened to my dress - I wish the painted profile Photograph of my dearest Husband, always on my dressing table and a coloured Photograph or miniature of my dearest Beatrice and one of her dear Husband, the photographs of all my dear children and their Husband and wives and of my grandchildren in frames.

A coloured profile Photograph in a leather case of my faithful friend J. Brown, his gift to me - with some of his hair laid with it and some of the photographs - which I have marked with a X - and have often carried in a silk case, (worked by my faithful Annie McDonald) in my pocket, to be put in the case, in my hand, and the cast of my beloved Husband's hand which is always near me to be placed in my coffin near me.

All these obiects which have been so dear to me during my life time and have never left me - I should wish to be near my earthly remains.

In addition to all these, I should wish the pocket Handkerchief of my dearest Husband and one of his cloaks, a shawl worked by my dearest daughter Alice, and a pocket handkerchief of my faithful Brown, that friend who was more devoted to me than anyone, to be laid on me. Some souvenir of my faithful wardrobe maid Annie McDonald to be near me, and anything else which Beatrice should wish to add."


Victoria RI

Extract written by Queen Victoria. From 'Curtain Down at Her Majesty's the death of Queen Victoria in the words of those who were there' © Stewart Richards, 2019

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