Queen Victoria dies after 63 years on the throne
The monarch’s death sends shock waves across the British empire
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