Death in the Victorian Era (Part 1)
I am fascinated by the rituals associated with death, coupled with an interest in history I thought I might do something a little different with The Haunts of Adelaide blog and take a look at Victorian Era beliefs and rituals associated with death.
The Victorian Era relates to the British rule of Monarch, Queen Victoria’s reign from the 10th of June until her death on the 22nd of January 1901 (which ushered in the Edwardian Era).
While the death rituals, beliefs, superstitions and fashion I will be presenting are of English origin, we here in Australia, being part of the Commonwealth, followed very closely, for the most part, the traditions of the Mother Land, and much of what was done there, was copied, or adapted to our own climate and availability of materials.
Where do I start in broaching such a sensitive topic?
There is Widow’s Weeds, stationary, decorum, fabrics, jewellery and superstitions, burial ritual, burial rites, mute mourners and so much more.I think for this post, we’ll start with the simplest of the Victorian requirements associated with death, and that is “stationary”.
|Victorian Era Mourning Stationary|
All Victorian death rituals are about decency, being ‘proper’ and acting with decorum. Prayer books and Bibles had to be bound in black Morocco leather, with black page markers, and often tied with a black ribbon.
Stationary had to be edged with black, usually lace or black ribbons, envelopes, note-papers, cards and tribute, or condolence books at funeral would be treated in the same manner. The black conveyed the feeling of sadness and loss associated with death.
This theme carried on through many things, including tying black or purple ribbons around chairs, pews, vases or even on the clothing of infants.
The people of the Victorian Era had high social values, and with this, it was perceived that one would obey social conventions to the letter, rather than be scorned or thought less of by their family or peers.
A person in mourning, because of these conventions, could not be socially active; they must not receive or pay visits socially to friends or relatives. Theatre was a total no go, with the exception of musicals after the first six months of mourning.
All of the above portrayed your deep sorrowful loss for your significant loved one who had passed on to the other side. Unfortunately, the strict isolation (other than for daily needs like food etc) drove some people into deep depressions, and even suicide.
Next week: Death in the Victorian Era part 2: “Widows Weeds”