The Death of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

On December 14, 1861, Queen Victoria mourned the death of her husband Albert. She would wear a locket of his hair each day until her own death. This marked the beginning of unique mourning traditions during the Victorian Era. Because of her, it started to become popular to wear hair as commemorative jewelry because it would not decay. Another practice done in memory of children was the making of wax baby dolls using the baby's hair. The dolls would be placed on the grave or kept in the home for sentimental purposes.

More customs were introduced with the invention of the daguerrotype announced on August 19th, 1839. Photography during this time was expensive and was only for big events, such as one's passing. These brought comfort to the grieving families, especially those who lost a child (the mortality rate was higher for children). The post-mortem photography process involved little beautification or posing of the body, as a trend, until the turn of the century. It even became common to pose the deceased with their family. Often, this would be the only photo they had of or with the family member.

Due to the high mortality rate and lengthy grieving process, the Victorians would spend much of their lives in mourning. Because loss and grief was such a big part of Victorian culture, it was very important that they commemorate death. Today, we would consider these customs to be grotesque and macabre. However, for the Victorians, it gave them a sense of closeness to their lost relatives and with it feelings of comfort. This contrasts significantly with modern times where death is not something to commemorate or display. Post-mortem photography is now largely reserved for forensics and baby dolls are not replicated after the deceased. It's customary to avoid embellishment of death out of respect. However, in the eyes of the Victorians, that was the respectful thing to do.

Works Cited:

Bedikian, S. A. (n.d.). The death of mourning: From Victorian Crepe to the little black dress - Sonia A. Bedikian, 2008. SAGE Journals. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

Harmeyer, R. (1970, January 1). Objects of immortality: Hairwork and mourning in victorian visual culture. Repository Home. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from


Associated Place(s)

Event date:

14 Sep 1861