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A Queen in mourning (1861 - 1901)
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A Queen in mourning  (1861 - 1901)Two days after Albert's death, Victoria wrote to her eldest daughter Princess Victoria in Germany. 'My darling Angel's child - Our firstborn. God's will be done.'
Prince Albert's loss was a shattering blow. Prolonged mourning was expected, but Victoria took it to extremes that alarmed the government. Not until the late 1870s did she resume anything like a normal public life.

People's sympathy turned to impatience, even resentment, since the grieving queen would not let the Prince of Wales take on the ceremonial face of monarchy while she stayed hidden away, swathed in widow's black, gazing sorrowfully at the bust of dear, departed Albert.

Criticism of the queen was not completely justified, since she never stopped working on state papers, though ministers found her difficult and sometimes inaccessible. Of her two most illustrious Prime Ministers, she much preferred Disraeli, who made her laugh and believed in imperial glory. Gladstone never raised a royal smile. 'He speaks to me as if I was a public meeting,' the queen complained.

That the queen became reclusive is true. That she found solace in the companionship of servants such as John Brown is also true. Otherwise she found consolation in children and grandchildren - though not the Prince of Wales. Delighted to be named Empress of India in 1876, she sent comforts to the troops during the Boer Wars, and was exhilarated though surprised by cheering crowds celebrating her Golden (1887) and Diamond (1897) Jubilees. In 1896 she became the longest reigning European sovereign - still taking an interest in such new developments as the telephone, car and moving-picture camera.

Victoria's last weeks were spent at her beloved holiday home, Osborne, on the Isle of Wight. There over Christmas 1900 she weakened, dying peacefully on the evening of 22 January 1901 among her family and on the arm of the German Kaiser, her grandson. Her last word was 'Bertie,' the eldest son who was finally to become king.

The fatherless family
A photograph of Queen Victoria taken at Windsor Castle in 1862; with the queen are Princess Victoria (standing), Princess Alice and Prince Alfred.

A Queen in mourning  (1861 - 1901)

Memorials to Albert
The Royal Albert Hall (1867-71) in London (left) was designed by Francis Fowke. The Albert Memorial (1863-76) across the road was the work of Giles Gilbert Scott. This twice life-sized gilt-bronze statue shows Albert holding a catalogue of the Great Exhibition.

A Queen in mourning  (1861 - 1901)

'A pretty little castle'
So Queen Victoria described Balmoral, her 'dear paradise' on the banks of the River Dee. She loved the romance of the Scottish Highlands and liked talking to the people - 'so simple and straight-forward'. Balmoral was full of memories of Albert, and she spent more and more time there after his death.

A Queen in mourning  (1861 - 1901)

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