The opulent world of Victorian love and grief can’t help but catch our imagination; images of widows in trailing black veils, elaborate hair wreaths, plumed horses and impossibly expensive black jewels offer a morbid beauty our contemporary existence lacks. Illustrated with a wide personal collection of mourning wear, jewels and ephemera, this talk aims to give a broad introduction to the wonderful and weird world of Victorian mourning and sentimental jewellery.
For many Victorians, death was as much a part of everyday life as life itself – from investments in burial clubs to wearing the hair of the deceased, one’s expiration was intertwined within all areas of existence.
Mourning fashions and outward displays of grief were embellished with a whole manner of black, silver and twinkling jewels, each rich with symbolism.
For centuries, the hair of both the deceased and the living were worn widely in lockets, brooches, fob chains and necklaces, so why are we repulsed now?
Following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria’s elaborate performance of grief set the tone for social conventions and expectations thereafter. Newspapers nationwide advertised the latest mourning fashions alongside adverts for tonics and black-framed stationary while ladies’ magazines laid out strict rules for funeral behaviour and which brooches would best convey one’s suffering. This all-encompassing death business has been unrivalled since, but may well have something to teach us today about death acceptance and celebration. Using a range of examples and stories from her personal collection, Kate hopes to share and possibly revive a little of these lost Victorian sentimental arts.
Kate Cherrell is a PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln specialising in Gothic Literature and Victorian Mediumship. From this, her research has expanded through to 19th century women in death care, celebration and mourning practice. She is also a collector of Victorian death and memorial artefacts and talks widely on these subjects.
She holds a keen interest in cemeteries, memorials and supernatural folklore which she explores within her blog www.burialsandbeyond.com
Image by Dark Wolf Photographer. Model Kate Cherrell
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