Monday, January 24, 2011

The Court mourns...and mourns...and mourns

Monday, January 24, 2011
Loretta reports:

Some time ago I blogged about orders for mourning his royal highness the Duke of Kent (father of then Princess, later Queen Victoria), who died on 24 January 1820.

Court mourning was a profitable business for purveyors of things black, because the court was obliged to mourn the monarch’s numerous relations, minor and major, on the Continent. In 1835, they did it for the Emperor of Austria from March 17 to April 12, whereupon they promptly recommenced for another relative:

"Orders for the Court's going into mourning on Sunday next, the 12th instant, for his late Royal Highness the Prince Augustus of Portugal, Consort of her most faithful Majesty, viz., the ladies to wear black silk, fringed or plain linen, white gloves, necklaces, and ear-rings, black or white shoes, fans, and tippets. The gentlemen to wear black, full trimmed, fringed or plain linen, black swords and buckles. The Court to change the mourning on Sunday, the 19th instant, viz: The ladies to wear black silk or velvet, coloured ribbands, fans, and tippets, or plain white, or white and gold, or white and silver stuffs, with black ribbands. The gentlemen to wear black coats, and black or plain white, or white and gold, or white and silver stuff waistcoats, full trimmed, coloured swords and buckles. And on Sunday, the 26th instant, the Court to go out of mourning."
 —The court journal: court circular & fashionable gazette, Vol. 7, 1835

Here’s how an American explained court mourning to his countrymen in 1856:

"Court mourning, too, is a subject for the most serious consideration. The number of days it must be worn, the depth of the sorrow it indicates, the colors of the fans and the shoes, are all prescribed; and the presence-chamber of Her Majesty after a person of royal rank in Siam or Brazil has gone to receive his deserts in some other world, is lugubrious in the last degree. A black drawing-room, as it is called, would be unendurable were it not that all is so manifestly matter of form. The grief that court ladies feel on the death of the uncle of the Czar, or of some petty cousin of the Queen, whom even Her Majesty has seldom seen, can hardly be very profound. Besides, if the mourning lasts more than ten days, they are generally allowed to mitigate its sombreness with purple or red, and though their clothes must be as black as the court circular requires, they may go to as many balls as they please."
Aristocracy in England, by Adam Badeau, 1856

Illustration: Duchess of Kent with toddler Princess Victoria in 1821


matriarchShene said...

One must have felt a bit like a Zebra or a Dalmatian...and when did no white after a certain time in the Fall come in to play or was that on this side of the 'puddle'?

Tonya said...

Very interesting it's amazing to read how different things were back then. I just love reading about stuff like this. The victorian era is one of my favorites.

Chris Woodyard said...

Very interesting, Loretta!
Considering the fact that black/white fans were specified for a great deal of mourning, it is surprising how few fans in mourning colors survive. Were they used so much, they wore out? Or perhaps they aren't interesting enough to show up in fan auction catalogs.

As for going to balls/amusements in black, I'm reminded of "Black Ascot" in 1910, where racing fans wore mourning for the late King Edward VII, and a Russian court ball held the day after the news came that Habsburg Crown Prince Rudolf had shot himself. It was considered too late to cancel the ball, so ladies were directed to wear black dresses and jewelry.
Somehow the notion of a ball dress for mourning doesn't quite get into the spirit of the thing....

Lady Burgley said...

Victoria made mourning fashionable, if such a thing can be said. I've always found it intriguing that while she mourned her Albert for more than 40 years, her son, when he became king, decreeed that public mourning for her should be limited to three months. People were shocked, but probably relieved as well.

There is an excellent blog about the death of the queen and the effects of her passing here:

Jane O said...

I gather that Victorian mourning was a bit more excessive than Georgian, especially for private persons. But then, I suppose private persons were expected to regret the death of whoever they were mourning.

Chris Woodyard said...

Here's a link on mourning in the time of the French Revolution and a bit after--good images.

(And I apologize, Loretta, if I actually saw this here first!)

Charles Bazalgette said...

I found some information from the tailoring side about general mourning in the Georgian period which might be of interest.

When the Duke of Cumberland died in 1790, Prinny ordered a 'weeper coat'. This was a black coat with an extra band of material sewn on to the cuffs. These, and the wide black silk ribbon which could be wrapped round the hat, where known as weepers.

nightsmusic said...

Didn't the amount of time spent in mourning change with the decades/eras? I tried to research mourning periods and customs for one of my stories and came up with a hundred contradictions. It made my head spin.

LorettaChase said...

pshene, I don't know when the rule about no white after, say Labor Day, came into effect. It may be American and it may be quite modern (as Labor Day is). I only know that white was worn throughout the year during the Regency and Romantic eras, and I _believe_this extended through the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Of course, until modern cleaning methods developed, it tended to be a color reserved for rich people.

LorettaChase said...

Chris & Charles, thank you for the excellent links! Fascinating information. Tonya, so very different. In our era, we seem to have left off mourning (formally, that is) altogether. Jane O, I have the same impression. Theo, it is tricky to pin down mourning periods for a given era, but it does help to bear in mind that not everybody adhered to one rule. In a 1912 edition of Manners & Rules of Good Society, one is offered a choice between the "longest periods prescribed by custom" and the more recent shorter ones. In The Lady's Stratagem, we learn that mourning extends longer in the country than in the city (note that this refers to French custom in the 1820s). I don't think this is a case where one can find absolutes.

Chris Woodyard said...

One more link on mourning jewellery:

The double ring to commemorate a husband and wife who died on the same day is wonderful and, as far as I know, quite unique.

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