This Day in History – February 2nd, 1901

Following a custom she maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Rheumatism in her legs had rendered her lame, and her eyesight was clouded by cataracts. Through early January, she felt “weak and unwell”, and by mid-January she was “drowsy … dazed, [and] confused”. She died on Tuesday, January 22nd, 1901, at half past six in the evening, at the age of 81. Her son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed. Her favorite pet Pomeranian, Turri, was laid upon her deathbed as a last request.

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 January 25th, Edward VII, the Kaiser and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, helped lift her into the coffin. 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. One of Albert’s dressing gowns was placed by her side, 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 jewelry 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, February 2nd, 1901 in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. As she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, it began to snow.

With a reign of 63 years, seven months and two days, Victoria is the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history. This year, however, that record is close to being broken if the current Queen Elizabeth II can maintain good health until at least September 11th, 2015.

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