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Vol I No. 1
PBS News & Events

Royal Funerals, St George's Chapel and the Royal Vaults Part 2

by William J. Martin
The Procession carrying into the nave of St George’s the coffin of Prince Albert in 1861

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria

and the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore

It was thought unseemly for women to attend funerals at that time lest they break down with emotion, so neither Queen Victoria nor their daughters Alice (later Grand Duchess of Hesse und Rhine,  Great Grandmother of Prince Philip), Helena (later Princess Christian von Schleswig-Holstein) and Louise (Later Duchess of Argyle)  attended the ceremony,  having left instead for Osborne House  (though represented by empty carriages in the procession)  In an interesting by way of history,  the two chief mourners at the funeral of Prince Albert were Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and his younger brother Prince Arthur, then aged 11, who became later the Duke of Connaught and was buried in the chapel 1942 at a funeral attended by the then 20-year-old naval officer, Prince Philip of Greece, as he was then known.

Queen Victoria herself chose not to be buried in the Vault at St George’s  but, instead, in the large mausoleum which she commissioned for Prince Albert (d. 1861)  at Frogmore in the Home Park at Windsor (built between 1862 and 1871) around which a later Royal cemetery was created. A number of those previously interred in the Chapel Vaults were moved to that cemetery in 1928 and it has remained in use ever since, though only one monarch has been interred there, namely Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor together with his wife Wallace (of whom it was observed that while never accepted by the British Royal family in life she is for ever among them in death…..

The Funeral of Queen Victoria

It was only when Queen Victoria’s Doctor, Sir James Reid, secretly contacted the Kaiser by Telegram, who promptly then cancelled his engagements and set sail for England, that her family began seriously to entertain the reality that the Queen was actually dying, so impossible did this seem to them.

The turn of the century and her last full year, 1900, had been a distressing one with the continuing Boer War, and her eldest daughter – Vicky, the Dowager Empress of Germany – had been diagnosed with incurable breast cancer, while staying in Balmoral, and then lay dying in Kronberg as it spread to her spine, causing prolonged and great pain.

Photograph above was taken in 1894 at the Palais Edinburgh in Coburg.

It shows Queen Victoria (seated on the left) with her daughter Vicky and with and behind them (from left to right)  Vicky’s son the Kaiser Wilhelm II and  her brothers, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Alfred formerly Duke of Edinburgh (he was the first member of the Royal family to visit Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia –where however he was badly wounded by a shot fired by a greengrocer and immigrant from Dublin Henry James O’Farrell);  having succeeded his paternal Uncle Ernest II he had become the reining Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha since 1893) and on the right,  the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

In August a telegram announcing that Prince Alfred, her favourite son, had died from throat cancer was followed shortly by the news that a much-loved grandson, Prince Christian Victor, eldest son of her daughter Princess Helena (of Schleswig-Holstein) , had succumbed to enteric fever while serving with the British Army in South Africa. Then, finally on the morning of Christmas Day, Jane, Lady Churchill, the queen’s oldest and most trusted courtier of forty six years, had been found dead in her bed.

It was only three weeks later that at 6.30pm on Tuesday 22 January 1901 that the Queen died. Pandemonium ensued as no one knew what to do. She had been served by 10 prime ministers; five Archbishops of Canterbury and six commanders-in-chief and lived through the terms of 18 presidents of the United States; 11 Viceroys of Canada; 16 Viceroys of India and witnessed a France ruled over successively by one king; an emperor and then seven presidents of a French Republic.

Such precedents as there had been were sixty four years past and thus far beyond any personal memory.  As Viscount Esher observed, “The ignorance of historical precedent in men whose business it is to know is wonderful….I cannot describe to you the historical ignorance, of everyone from top to bottom — who should know something of procedure. You would think that the English Monarchy had [not] been buried since the time of Alfred.” The looming complexities were then greatly increased upon it emerging that the Queen had left instructions that in a bold stroke of novelty she was to have military and state funeral rather than something relatively private at Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel.

Even the Royal undertakers arrived from London without a coffin which was therefore made by a local carpenter on the Isle of Wight. Since she had left instructions that she was not to be embalmed a layer of charcoal was placed first in the coffin in which were concealed about her secretly according to further instructions The wedding ring of the mother of her Scottish servant, John Brown, which was placed on her finger; together with a photograph of him and a lock of his hair  and his pocket handkerchief.

Her last journey began on the 1st of February on her Royal Yacht the Alberta which sailed past 11 miles of Royal Navy battleships and cruisers lined up in the Solent. These fired guns at one minute intervals. She was next carried by train to Victoria station whence the largest military procession since the death of Wellington in 1852, took her by gun carriage through Hyde Park to Paddington Station whence the Royal Train conveyed the Coffin to Windsor.

There, having had to wait too long in very cold conditions some of the horses of the Royal Horse Artillery,  which were due to pull the gun carriage,  became uncontrollable and broke free. This occasioned the start of a tradition maintained ever since for Monarchs, whereby, (at the suggestion of Prince Louis Battenberg, grandfather of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh) 138 Royal Navy sailors took over and pulled the carriage to St George’s Chapel.

Inside the Chapel, there had been further chaos before the funeral service, as the clergy processions led by the Archbishops of York and Canterbury had been in place too early and had then had to stand for over an hour waiting, while by some strange oversight, the Lord Chamberlain had not allowed in sufficient people to fill the nave and such few as there were then had to be spread out to mitigate the seeming emptiness.

The final act,  was the service of Committal held on the 4th of February in the Mausoleum at Frogmore where the Queen was finally laid to rest beside her husband Prince Albert who had died in 1861.

Papal disapproval

One small historical curiosity arose, in that it seems the Pope send a representative or to allow an official mass to be said for the Queen – which marked an interesting contrast with what happened even when the staunchly Roman Catholic Queen Mary acceded to the throne and had to approve arrangements for the funeral of her brother King Edward for whom she expressly had a Requiem celebrated in her presence during the time of his funeral conducted according to the Rites of the Book of Common Prayer and presided over by Archbishop Cranmer.

The tomb of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert inside the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore

Burials at the surrounding

Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, Windsor

The remains of a number of members of the Royal Family were transferred to Frogmore from the Vault in St George’s Windsor in October 1928, namely:.

Prince Harald of Schleswig-Holstein (1876–1876), son of Princess Helena of the United Kingdom who is also interred there.

Prince Francis of Teck (1870–1910), brother of Queen Mary.

Princess Louise Margaret, Duchess of Connaught (1860–1917), wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Cremated on the evening of 18 March 1917 at Golders Green Crematorium (the first member of the Royal Family to be cremated) ashes put in an oak coffin for funeral at St George’s Chapel on 19 March 1917, then transferred in 1928

Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (1831–1917), husband of Princess Helena of the United Kingdom.

Lord Leopold Mountbatten (1889–1922), grandson of Queen Victoria through his mother Princess Henry of Battenberg.

Princess Helena of the United Kingdom (1846–1923), daughter of Queen Victoria, wife of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.

Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge (1868–1927), a former Prince of Teck and brother of Queen Mary and husband of Margaret Cambridge, Marchioness of Cambridge who is also buried there.

Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon (1907–1928), son of Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone.

Buried at Frogmore

after 1928:

1929 Margaret Cambridge, Marchioness of Cambridge (1873–1929), wife of the 1st Marquess of Cambridge who is also buried there

1935 Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom (1868–1935), daughter of King Edward VII.

1938 Prince Arthur of Connaught (1883–1938), son of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught.

1940 Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (1848–1939), daughter of Queen Victoria, wife of the 9th Duke of Argyll. Cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, ashes put in an oak coffin for funeral at St George’s Chapel on 12 December 1939, then placed in the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel; transferred to the Royal Burial Ground on 13 March 1940.

1942 Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850–1942), son of Queen Victoria. Funeral at St George’s Chapel on 23 January 1942, interred in the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel; transferred to the Royal Burial Ground on 18 March 1942.

1948 Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1870–1948), daughter of Princess Helena of the United Kingdom.

1956 Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (1872–1956), daughter of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and Princess Helena of the United Kingdom and also granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

1957 The Earl of Athlone (1874–1957), brother of Queen Mary and husband of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone(also buried there). A former Prince of Teck, a former Governor-General of South Africa and a former Governor General of Canada

1968 Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902–1942), son of King George V, husband of Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent (whose funeral followed on the 30th just one day later than his of 29th August 1968).

1972 Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (1894–1972), eldest son of King George V and formerly King Edward VIII.

1972 Prince William of Gloucester (1941–1972), son of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.

1972 Sir Alexander Ramsay (1881–1972), husband of Princess Patricia of Connaught.=

1974 Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886–1974), daughter of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and wife of Sir Alexander Ramsay.

1974 Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900–1974), son of King George V, husband of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.

1981 Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (1883–1981), last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria, wife of Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone who is also buried there.

1981 George Cambridge, 2nd Marquess of Cambridge (1895–1981), son of the 1st Marquess of Cambridge. (Buried there with his wife).

1986 Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (1896–1986), wife of Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor.

1988 Dorothy Cambridge, Marchioness of Cambridge (1899–1988), wife of The 2nd Marquess of Cambridge.

1994 Lady May Abel Smith (1906–1994), daughter of Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone and wife of Sir Henry Abel Smith

1994 Sir Henry Abel Smith (1900–1993), husband of Lady May Abel Smith. Cremated, ashes interred in the Royal Burial Ground at the time of his wife’s funeral there on 9 June 1994. Both are buried in the same grave.

2004 Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (1901–2004), wife of Prince Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester.

2005 Sir Angus Ogilvy (1928–2004), husband of Princess Alexandra of Kent. Funeral at St George’s Chapel on 5 January 2005, then interred in the Royal Burial Ground.

Exterior of the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmorewith some of the subsequent Royal Graves shown in the foreground