The death of Prince Albert would impact Queen Victoria for the rest of her life. She would mourn him by wearing black for the remaining years of her life and by falling into a deep depression for several years after his passing.
A few weeks before he died, Prince Albert eerily said, “I do not cling to life. You do, but I set no store by it. If I knew that those I love were well cared for, I should be quite ready to die tomorrow… I am sure if I had a severe illness, I should give up at once. I should not struggle for life. I have no tenacity for life.”
Details had been released to the press when he became ill in November (with symptoms of insomnia, leg and arm pain, loss of appetite, etc.), but they were vague. As time went on, increasingly contradictory press reports began circulating in the media about his health. The public was led to believe his illness was worse and more progressive than it really was. Officers at Windsor Castle did not appear to help matters as The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal complained of the information they released and wanted a formal inquiry into the matter.
Around 6 A.M. on 14 December 1861, Queen Victoria was informed that there was “ground to hope the crisis is over” and she went to see her husband. However, she was taken aback when she arrived. “The room had a sad look of night-watching, the candles burnt down to their sockets, of doctors looking anxious. I went in, and never can forget how beautiful my darling looked, lying there with his face lit up by the rising sun, his eyes unusually bright, gazing, as it were on unseen objects, and not taking notice of me.” By 10 A.M. the doctors were still quite anxious, and Victoria went out for some air. By the evening, all hope was gone. Princess Alice fetched her mother from the anteroom and Victoria “started up like a Lioness rushed by every one, and bounded on the bed imploring him to speak and to give one kiss to his little wife.” Albert opened his eyes but did not move – so Victoria moved to kiss him over and over. She then knelt beside him and took his already cold hand. His breathing became faint, and Victoria said, “Oh no, I have seen this before. This is death.”1
The Prince died at the age of 42 on 14 December 1861 in Windsor Castle’s Blue Room at 10.50 pm from typhoid fever. He was surrounded by Queen Victoria and five of their nine children. Victoria cried out, “Oh! My dear darling!”
The already numb Victoria was sedated with opium and went to bed with four-year-old Beatrice beside her. Alice slept at the foot of the bed. Victoria cried all night with Beatrice trying to comfort her, “Don’t cry. Papa is going on a visit to Grandmama.”2
Although his doctor, William Jenner, had diagnosed him with typhoid fever just a few days before his death on 7 December (as that is when the first pink typhoid rash appeared on his skin), modern historians now suspect the Prince may have died from another disease due to his suffering from stomach pain for two or more years before his death. Cancer and Crohn’s disease have been floated as potential causes of death, as well.
Interestingly, Albert was never told he had typhoid fever because the Queen said: “He had a horror of fever.”
After his death, the Prince Consort’s body was placed, temporarily, in St George’s Chapel’s Royal Vault at Windsor Castle before he was buried in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore on 18 December 1862 (which would not be fully completed until 1871).
As Queen Victoria was utterly devastated at the death of Albert, she ordered that all of his rooms in the royal residences be kept as though he was still alive – linen and towels were changed daily, and hot water was brought in.
Queen Victoria would live for 40 more years, dying at the age of 81, on 22 January 1901. She was interred beside Albert in the Royal Mausoleum that February where the couple was finally reunited once more.
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