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IMPERIALTEARS

oh Queen! Till now thy people's vows were paid
In Joy! New ties this common grief hath made!

Richard Bennett, "The Queen and Albert the Good, " 1862

Break not, O woman 's-heart, but still endure;
Break not, for thou art Royal…

Alfred Tennyson,

Dedication to the new edition, of Idylls of the King, 1862

Queen Victoria performed mourning rituals with theatrical panache. While she undeniably suffered when someone died, her customs also served both the monarchy and the culture. Though extreme, her practices serve to authorize cultural meanings the queen could not have consciously foretold. Because of her long and flamboyant mourning practices, Victoria acquired the epithet the Widow of Windsor. For more than a generation, children pronouncing the alphabet in English could identify queens with widowhood. In 1897, the year of Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, a New York publisher issued Baby's A.B.C. with its rhyme for "Q":

Q is the Queen
and a widow, poor thing.
Whose Baby will
one of these days be a king.1

However one construes this jingle, the conjunction of baby, mother, and widow does not compute. In 1897 Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was fifty-five years old. Even considering the likelihood that the pub

-79-

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