The opulent world of Victorian love and grief is a beautiful, elaborate and bizarre one. From elaborate hair wreaths to enormous brooches and impossibly expensive black jewels, mourning jewellery displays a devotion and beautiful morbidity that our contemporary lives lack.
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 behavior and which brooches would best convey one’s suffering. This all-encompassing death business has been unrivaled 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 19th Century Gothic. From this, her research has expanded through to 19th century death care, celebration and mourning practice. Her thesis focuses on the role of young, unmarried women within 19th Century Spiritualism and the wider influence of their written experiences on modern literature and genre fiction.
She is a freelance writer and editor and holds a keen interest in cemeteries, memorials and folklore which she explores in her blog www.burialsandbeyond.com
Visiting Arnos Vale
We have free parking on site, and cycle racks available. There is an accessible parking space outside each chapel. Further information can be found on our Visiting Arnos Vale page.
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