Kate Frye’s Diary: The Death Of Queen Victoria: 22 January 1901

Kate, who had just celebrated her 23rd birthday, is living with her family in middle-class comfort at 25 Arundel Gardens, north Kensington.

Tuesday January 22nd 1901

The Queen is Dead. We heard the paper boys in the street about nine o’clock. As I write the bells are tolling. The earth will be a very black place for a few weeks. I am about to undress for bed but stopped to write these few lines first.

Kate's friend Stella would most certainly have ensured that her mourning outfits were as glamorous as these. Kate had to make do with what she had. (Image courtesy of Cult Nation website)

Kate’s friend Stella would most certainly have ensured that her mourning outfits were as glamorous as these. Kate had to make do with what she had. (Image courtesy of Cult Nation website)

Wednesday January 23rd 1901

I looked out a black coat and skirt of Agnes’ to send to Abbie [an impoverished cousin] as I know she has not black at all – and of course could not buy any, poor girl – and one would feel it so much now.

Stella [an older, glamorous, friend, reported that at Whiteleys] the people were standing 8 and 10 deep at the glove counter waiting to be served [with black gloves].

What a blessing we all have a few black garments – it would be a terrible rush to get any made. Last night I took some coloured ribbon from an otherwise all black hat & pinned in a black feather  I had by me –so with my black coat and skirt and a black silk front to a blouse I was quite alright.

It seemed a funny sort  of day – between a bank holiday and a Sunday. [Went with Stella to tea at the Empress Club – new premises] which really are magnificent – a most gorgeous place. [For more about the Empress Club see here.]

[Afterwards they walked along Bond Street and Oxford Street to Marble Arch tube station] I never saw such a sight as the shop windows – everything black in them – even the fancy shops and as for the Drapers it looks too awful. Everyone is dressed in mourning – men with the deepest of hat bands etc – not a piece of colour anywhere – and of course black shutters to all the shops. [A fancy dress party that Kate had been so looking forward to – she had her Nell Gwynn costume ready – was cancelled.]  Our future is a blank. All theatres still shut.

Tuesday January 29th 1901

They were selling little crape rosettes in the streets – as they sell red, white and blue ones on festive occasions – they looked very horrid.

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.

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  1. #1 by Grant Crawford on January 22, 2015 - 3:19 pm

    The date in the heading is wrong.

  2. #3 by artandarchitecturemainly on January 23, 2015 - 5:04 am

    Queen Victoria lived for a very long time (1819–1901) and reigned for most of that era. There would hardly have been anyone in the nation who remembered another monarch. So it was definitely time for King Edward to take the throne, before he himself died of old age (and other problems).

    Why was everyone so devastated when the elderly queen died? Why was everyone dressed in the deepest mourning and why were there black shutters to all the shops? I would have had a significant state funeral and then a great coronation for King Edward. And what did Kate mean by “our future is a blank”?

    • #4 by womanandhersphere on January 23, 2015 - 10:57 am

      Well, I’m afraid Kate was only meaning that she was to be deprived of entertainment for a while – ie no parties – rather than that the future of the nation was a blank. I suppose people were personally moved by the Queen’s death – marking as it did the end of an era. The rituals of mourning were so entrenched in society’s mores – both at a family and a national level (Kate and her family had, for instance, gone into mourning in 1892 on the death of Albert, Duke of Clarence – elder brother of George V) – that there was nothing unusual in the depth of mourning adopted to mark the passing of the Queen. And of course there was very good trade to be had by those in the clothing industry (ie Jays Mourning Warehouse).

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