When Queen Victoria died at the age of 81 on 22 January 1901, it took her family, court and subjects by surprise – very few had been able to contemplate the mortality of the monarch who had ruled over Britain and its empire for almost 64 years. Her death marked the end of the Victorian era.
In 1897, Victoria had written instructions for her funeral, which was to be military as befitting a soldier's daughter and the head of the army, and white instead of black. On 25 January, her body was lifted into the coffin by her sons Edward VII and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and her grandson the German Emperor Wilhelm II.
She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. An array of mementos commemorating her extended family, friends and servants were laid in the coffin with her, at her request, by her doctor and dressers. A dressing gown that had belonged to her husband Albert who had died 40 years earlier, was placed by her side, along with a plaster cast of his hand, while a lock of John Brown's hair, along with a picture of him, was placed in her left hand concealed from the view of the family by a carefully positioned bunch of flowers. Items of jewellery placed on Victoria included the wedding ring of John Brown's mother, given to her by Brown in 1883.
Her funeral was held on Saturday, 2 February, in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore at Windsor Great Park.
The state funeral of Queen Victoria took place in February 1901; it had been 64 years since the last burial of a monarch. Victoria left strict instructions regarding the service and associated ceremonies and instituted a number of changes, several of which set a precedent for state (and indeed ceremonial) funerals that have taken place since.
First, she disliked the preponderance of funereal black; henceforward, there would be no black cloaks, drapes or canopy, and Victoria requested a white pall for her coffin. Second, she expressed a desire to be buried as "a soldier's daughter".
The procession, therefore, became much more a military procession, with the peers, privy counsellors and judiciary no longer taking part en masse. Her pallbearers were equerries rather than dukes (as had previously been customary), and for the first time, a gun carriage was employed to convey the monarch's coffin.
Third, Victoria requested that there should be no public lying in state. This meant that the only event in London on this occasion was a gun carriage procession from one railway station to another: Victoria having died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, her body was conveyed by boat and train to Waterloo Station, then by gun carriage to Paddington Station and then by train to Windsor for the funeral service itself.
The rare sight of a state funeral cortège travelling by ship provided a striking spectacle: Victoria's body was carried on board HMY Alberta from Cowes to Gosport, with a suite of yachts following conveying the new king, Edward VII, and other mourners. Minute guns were fired by the assembled fleet as the yacht passed by.
Victoria's body remained on board ship overnight before being conveyed by gun carriage to the railway station the following day for the train journey to London. Victoria broke convention by having a white draped coffin.
Victoria's children had married into the great royal families of Europe and a number of foreign monarchs were in attendance including Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany as well as the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand.