The Truth About Queen Victoria's Bizarre Funeral

Queen Victoria was England's longest-reigning monarch until Elizabeth II passed her by, the young upstart. The sun never set on Victoria's empire, but eventually, as suns tend to do, it set on her life.

She'd been on the throne for nearly 64 years. At age 81, she was tired. She'd buried her beloved husband, Prince Albert, plus a beloved attendant who may or may not have been her secret spouse and three adult children. She was nearly blind and had lost almost half her weight, though that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. At her most robust, the 4'11" queen measured 50 inches at her midsection. (Yes, that's right — 59 inches tall, 50 inches around. She might not have been amused, but she was well-fed.)

On the evening of January 22, 1901, the queen breathed her last. That raised a number of issues, not least of which was how do you go about burying a queen? It's not like you can tell the people she'd gone to live on a farm where she could run and play with other queens. Nobody then living had had to face that problem. The mad scramble was on.

As already mentioned, she'd lost a lot of weight, so at least they didn't have to find blueprints for a square coffin. Fortunately for all concerned, Vickie left detailed instructions for her going-away party.

Queen Victoria's funeral shed some light on her personal life

History Extra tells us that Queen Victoria wanted a real funeral. Not some hushed laying to rest, quiet blubbering into bits of monogrammed silk, a prelate muttering about "ashes to ashes," but a full military funeral. She didn't want to be embalmed, and charcoal was spread across the bottom of the casket — you know, for the stench. She didn't want a death mask made, but they made one anyway. (Imagine the interview for that job.)

Placed in the coffin with her were family heirlooms, but they weren't from her family. After the death of Prince Albert, Victoria grew very close to her attendant, a man named John Brown (pictured above). We're talking very close. Some wags even referred to her as "Mrs. Brown," though probably not to her face. But going back to the funeral, the wedding ring of John Brown's mother was placed on her finger. Also in the coffin was a lock of John Brown's hair and one of his handkerchiefs. And lest she forget, there was a photograph of Prince Albert. No, we're kidding. It was a snap of John Brown.

The funeral procession took place on February 1 and lasted two hours. When the horses broke free of the gun carriage bearing her casket, the naval honor guard pitched in to pull the carriage to St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. On February 4, she was interred in a mausoleum near Windsor, at Frogmore (not Frogless — we're talking royalty here, so there would be no skimping on frogs). The whole shebang cost £35,500, which is around £4.5 million in today's money.