Queen Victoria spent the Christmas period in 1900 at one of her favourite retreats, Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight as had been her custom since the death of her beloved Albert. She must have known that her long life and her record-breaking reign were coming to an end as she told her doctor that she would like to live a little longer as there were a few more things that she needed to settle. Certainly, the people close to her, including her staff, knew she didn’t have long left. The Empress of India was lame through rheumatism and struggled with the effects of cataracts and above all, she was lonely.
As a new year dawned the Queen’s health continued to deteriorate and constantly felt drowsy, dazed and confused. She briefly rallied on the morning of 21 January and even spent time playing with Turi, her Pomeranian dog on her bed, and had time to ask Bertie, the future Edward VII to kiss her before she slipped into unconsciousness. The Dean of Winchester was on hand and recited her favourite hymn.
After 63 years on the throne, the 81-year-old Queen Victoria drew her last breath at approximately 6.30 pm on 22 January. Almost all of her family were with her when she died including her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II, who in typical fashion did much to try and steal the limelight. Also present was was her personal physician, Sir James Reid.
Word had been spreading for quite a while that the Queen’s health was in decline and so for days, numerous journalists had been camped out at the gates of Osborne House waiting for news. When the news did finally arrive, they all rushed off to the telegraph office like an unruly mob, each one of them hoping to be the first to get the “Queen Dead” headline published.
The Queen had in 1897 written down instructions regarding her funeral. She was the daughter of a soldier and was head of the army and so befittingly, the funeral would be a military one. On 25 January King Edward VII, the Kaiser and Prince Arthur helped lift the body of the Queen into the coffin. Instructions included that white was to be worn, not black and so the Queen was wearing a white dress along with her wedding veil. A plaster cast of Albert’s hand along with one of his dressing gown’s was laid at her side along with numerous other mementos from family, friends and servants. Also present was an expertly placed bunch of flowers concealing the picture of John Brown and a lock of his hair from the family.
The funeral took place at Windsor Castle, in St. George’s Chapel on 2 February and after two days of lying in state to allow people time to pay their respects, the queen finally rejoined Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum when she was interred beside him in Windsor Great Park.