Queen Vic­to­ria dies af­ter 63 years on the throne

The monarch’s death sends shock waves across the Bri­tish em­pire

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

Bythe be­gin­ning of 1901, the 81-year-old Queen Vic­to­ria was vis­i­bly ail­ing. Lonely, lame and stricken with cataracts, the Em­press of In­dia had spent Christ­mas at Os­borne House on the Isle of Wight, but her fam­ily recog­nised that the end was near. She would “like to live a lit­tle longer”, she told her doc­tor, “as I still have a few things to set­tle”.

Al­though on the morn­ing of 21 Jan­uary Vic­to­ria briefly ral­lied, even call­ing for her Pomera­nian dog, Turi, to come and play on her bed, she was now drift­ing to­wards death. Be­fore she closed her eyes for the last time, she spot­ted her way­ward son Ber­tie – now poised to be­come Ed­ward VII – and asked him to kiss her. The dean of Winch­ester re­cited her favourite hymn, and Vic­to­ria slipped into un­con­scious­ness.

The queen breathed her last at about 6.30pm on 22 Jan­uary, with al­most all her fam­ily gath­ered around her bed. At the top were her doc­tor, Sir James Reid, and – of all peo­ple – her bom­bas­tic grand­son Kaiser Wil­helm II, who was typ­i­cally de­ter­mined to hog the lime­light. When she died, Turi was placed on her deathbed to hon­our her last re­quest.

As night fell, scores of jour­nal­ists were camped out­side Os­borne’s gates. When the news came, there was a head­long rush to the tele­graph of­fice. One ob­server re­mem­bered see­ing the mob of “run­ners bawl­ing ‘Queen dead’ at the top of their voices”, like a “ba­bel of voices at a fox-hunt”. It was not ex­actly what she would have wanted.

An oil paint­ing of Queen Vic­to­ria from 1899. When she breathed her last two years later, she had been on the throne more than six decades

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