Kate Frye and her family were never ones to miss an ‘Occasion’ and as occasions went few were more important in the nation’s eyes than the funeral of Queen Victoria.
Kate went by tube with her mother and sister, Agnes, to Lancaster Gate and remarked on the vast numbers of people pouring into Hyde Park. They then walked to Edgware Road, near Burwood Place, to a Leverett and Frye grocery store – one in the chain owned and run by Kate’s father.
Saturday February 2nd 1901
It [the shop] had all been boarded in – the big round step and the two skylights in front and at the side so there was lots of room and it was quite private. The window had been let to a party – Mr Hunt’s friends took the two skylights – we and another lady had the step – till the five chance customers who had bought the only seats sold turned up then they had the front behind the barrier. Much to our surprise who should walk in but Annie and Guy Gold and later Amy – Mrs Watney – and her son Jack. We all saw most perfectly .
[Kate sat or stood on a box on the high step from 9.15 to 1.15 – it was cold]. Miles and miles of soldiers – a regal soldier’s funeral truly and the most impressive one possible. We could see them coming half the length of the Edgware Road – from the Marble Arch and they looked like some long long wave. The brass helmets then the banners. I never took my eyes off the coffin whilst it was in sight – as if I couldn’t let our Queen go. Before the body had gone a band playing Chopin’s Funeral March and now ever will the scene come back to me when I hear those sad strains – that to me is the only Funeral March.
Some of the uniforms were magnificent – but the German Emperor had a Field Marshall’s uniform as had the King. I do love the Emperor’s face – he is so striking – I am glad to have seen him. The King looked round our way – so I saw him well – he looked very pale and puffy but nicer than I expected.
The funeral procession was making its way to Paddington Station, from where the coffin journeyed on to Windsor – which explains why it was travelling up the Edgware Road. Kate, along with the rest of Britain, was not to be so impressed by the German Emperor in later years. I suppose Kate was surprised to see Annie and Guy Gold because they were members of higher-status branch of the family and would not, perhaps, have been expected to choose a grocer’s shop as their grandstand.
For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.