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The Death of Queen Victoria, 1901
She ascended to the British throne upon the death of her uncle in 1837 (see Victoria Becomes Queen, 1837). She was only a teenager of eighteen at a time when the Crown had become tarnished by the scandal of her predecessors. Her unwavering dedication to her role as Queen soon won the respect of her subjects. She reigned for the next sixty-three years, the longest royal reign in British history. During this time she and her subjects witnessed the global expansion of her empire and the elevation of Britain to super-power status among the nations of the world. She gave her name to an era and became the symbolic representation of the prestige and power of her kingdom.

Her reign and her life came to an end at her estate, Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight on January 22, 1901. Victoria was eighty-one years old and had served as Britain's Queen for almost sixty-four years. At her passing she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren including her son, who would succeed her as King Edward VII, and her grandson German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who, thirteen years later, would lead German forces against Britain in World War I.

"The day was one of glorious sunshine. . . "

The Countess of Denbigh was a witness to the beginning of Queen Victoria's final journey to her burial at Windsor Castle. in a letter to a friend, she describes the scene as the Queen's body leaves the Isle of Wight aboard a British Navy ship:

"I think you will like to hear of my going down to Southampton to see the passing of our dear Queen from Osborne to Portsmouth.

I went on the Scot, where both Houses were embarked. We steamed out, and took up our position between the last British ship and the first foreign ships of war, on the south side of the double line down which the procession was to pass. The day was one of glorious sunshine, with the smoothest and bluest of seas. After a while a black torpedo destroyer came dashing down the line signaling that the Alberta was leaving Osborne and from every ship, both British and foreign, boomed out the minute guns for close on an hour before the procession reached us. The sun was now (three p.m.) beginning to sink, and a wonderful golden pink appeared in the sky and as the smoke slowly rose from the guns it settled in one long festoon behind them, over Haslar, a purple festoon like the purple hangings ordered by the King.

Then slowly down the long line of battleships came eight torpedo destroyers, dark gliding forms, and after them the white Alberta looking very small and frail next the towering battleships. We could see the motionless figures standing round the white pall which, with the crown and orb and sceptre, lay upon the coffin. Solemnly and slowly, it glided over the calm blue water, followed by the other three vessels, giving one a strange choke, and a catch in one's heart as memory flew back to her triumphal passage down her fleet in the last Jubilee review. As slowly and as silently as it came the cortege passed away into the haze: with the solemn booming of the guns continuing every minute till Portsmouth was reached. A wonderful scene and marvelously impressive, leaving behind it a memory of peace and beauty and sadness which it is impossible to forget."

   This eyewitness account appears in: Denbigh, Cissy, Countess of, in Winefride, Elwes, The Fielding Album, Geoffrey Bles (1950), republished in: Carey, John (ed.) EyeWitness to History (1987); Strachey, Lytton, Queen Victoria (1921, republished 2010).

How To Cite This Article:
"The Death of Queen Victoria, 1901", EyeWitness to History, (2010).