Funerals and Mourning

Funerals in the nineteenth century were huge affairs, as significant as marriages and births. The grander the funeral, the more it was perceived that the deceased was loved. Fake mourners would even be hired to look solemn and to cry at appropriate moments to increase the size and grief of the crowd.

There were strict rules surrounding the ongoing lives of the deceased’s family. Your degree of relation to the deceased dictated how long you went into mourning. In this period, you would not attend balls and parties, you would wear nothing but black, and any joyous events (like an impending marriage) had to become very demure and austere events, lest they be considered inappropriate. After this period, you would then go into ‘half-mourning’: you were allowed to wear purples and greys, and to attend some low-key functions. At most, the period of mourning lasted for a year, since after ‘a year and a day’ a widow would be allowed to marry again.

 "Killed by a Coffin at Kensal Creen Cemetery." The Illustrated Police News etc (London, England), Saturday, November 9, 1872; Issue 456.

“Killed by a Coffin at Kensal Creen Cemetery.”
The Illustrated Police News etc (London, England), Saturday, November 9, 1872; Issue 456.

How to Die Nobly

  • “’your uncle died in such a thorough-bred way, so like a gentleman, as he had lived. Do you know he had been reading my book, “The Old Road to Ruin,” and he said to his man, “Lounds, I have torn a leaf out of Lady Stepastray’s book: get it rebound;” and he sank back and died” (Cheveley 331).
  • “had the Count been so obliging as to have drowned himself, or shot himself, or hung himself, (though that would have been almost too vulgar,) there would have been some éclat [fuss]; and, in return, she [his fiancée] would have heaved two or three sighs, dropped two or three tears, and, perhaps, worn mourning for a week” (The Reformer 3:99-100).
  • “’her ladyship was remarkably generous. About a week before she died, (the late Lady Waddilove was quite sensible of her danger,) she called me to her . . . ‘you are a good creature . . . I will leave you – my lady’s maid!’” (The Disowned 1:88).

How to Mourn Nobly (or Not)

  • “Six nobles bore his pall: long trains of carriages attended his funeral: the journals were filled with outlines of his biography and lamentations at his decease. They buried him in Westminster Abbey, and they made subscriptions for a monument in the very best sort of marble” (Godolphin 1:16).
  • “Emmy, too, was presented to the august [royal] family, and as mourning is not admitted in Court on certain days, she appeared in a pink crape dress” (Vanity Fair 736).
  • “’Going to be married, indeed! and a widow only seven months! I wonder what will become of all her nice new mourning [clothes]! What a shameful waste!’” (Romance and Reality 2:129).



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