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EF Box Funeral Directors Ltd


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The Form of Mourning Within the Reign of Queen Victoria




The moment Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert died in 1861, she established a new trend. Her lengthy mourning began a style of oppressive traditions that funeral directors were to make last until her own death forty years later. The whole court was commanded to dress in a certain style and Victoria herself remained in full mourning attire for three years. Grieving on its own wasn't enough. Inner feelings were to be on full display throughout the full-on grieving that had now become trendy.


Seeing their Queen's example, those who could afford to do so indulged in expensive funerals, built complex monuments at the grave and adhered to the new etiquette of mourning. Along with specific dress came a whole set of rules restricting the way people could act. Popular household manuals gave comprehensive instructions about the proper etiquette to adopt for each period of mourning. Queen Victoria's poorer subjects had to get along with mixing all their clothes in a deep vat of black dye.




Compared to the adults, children were exempt from the traditions and were usually not required to wear mourning attire, although sometimes girls wore white dresses. A lot of their mothers, on the other hand, were nearly always in black, because of the many deaths that families in those times suffered. The mourning time for men was not as long. Unrestricted by the curtailed social requirements, it was allowable for them to return to work and continue their usual lives. They just wore black attire, or even just dark suits accompanied by black gloves, cravats and hatbands.




For females, however, grieving was a serious business. Although they were able to attend church services, during full mourning they were not to be seen in places associated with fun or enjoyment. The lengthiest period of mourning, which would last many years, was after a spouse had died. The expected periods then dropped down a level, considering what the relationship with the deceased was. In the case of first cousins, for example, the period of grieving was only for a month.




Full mourning went for at least one year and a day. During this period women were required to dress in all black or in dull dresses with no sheen, trimmed with crepe. Bombazine was an often used material, being less expensive than non-reflective silk. Petticoats had black ribbon attached to their hems, in case they were glimpsed. The women also carried lace handkerchiefs with black borders, specially designed caps, bonnets and veils, even large "weeper" cuffs on dresses designed for mourners to wipe their nose during times of particular grief.




Second mourning lasted nine months. Although woman's clothes would still need to be drab – generally gray – the crepe was allowed to be removed and the mourning veil could be lifted. A little jewelery was allowed, but this was limited to hard black jet. It was popular for locks of the departed's hair to be incorporated into brooches, lockets and watch fobs.




At the time of the half mourning phase, which went from three up to six months, there was a gradual introduction of color, with clothes moving on to lighter grays, mauve and some white. Jewelery was no longer restricted to jet and any type could be worn.




Whatever phase of mourning they were at, individuals had to acquire the particular required dress, or the raw materials to make them with, together with all other trimmings, the jewelery and bonnets etc. Not surprisingly, a whole industry sprang up to cater for this fashionable new trend. Jay's of Regent Street opened in 1841 as a type of one-stop shop, selling everything the grieving widows could possibly require. Death was a lucrative business, as holding mourning clothes and crepe in the home after the mourning had ceased was considered to be bad luck.


When Queen Victoria passed away in 1901, the mourning etiquette she had started began to fall away and the funeral director's rituals around grief changed drastically once more.





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