Despite the fact that she was quite tiny, Queen Victoria looms large over most of the 19th century. She was every bit a woman of her time, engaging in the overblown sentimentality and culture of death so pervasive during the age that bears her name. When she died at 81, the queen left secret, detailed instructions on how to handle her body and what items to place in her coffin. There are, indeed, a number of strange Queen Victoria death facts worth exploring.
Victorians had something of an obsession with death and death rituals. One reason this was true was because people of the era literally lived in close proximity to death. Aspects of the Industrial Revolution shortened life expectancy, even in an age when 40 was considered old. Dead bodies were cleaned and prepared for burial by family members, and the corpses were put in their parlors for viewing. Friends and loved ones created jewelry made from the hair of the deceased; furniture and doorways were draped in black crepe; and even photos were taken of the dead, dressed and seated in chairs with other family members, as though they were still alive. Or families would gather for photos, all dressed in black, around a portrait of the dearly departed, sorrowful looks on every face. Death and all that came with it hovered far more closely to the living than it does today.
This was also the age of Romanticism, an artistic, literary, and cultural tradition that focused on both the natural and unnatural world. Some Victorians expressed a strong interest in the paranormal, the spectral, and otherworldly. Sentimentality and emotion also held sway during the 19th century. It's no wonder, really, that Queen Victoria's death wishes were anything but simple.