'Our whole talk had been of coffins and winding sheets.'
THE QUEEN HAD ALWAYS HAD, as Henry Ponsonby had said and the other members of her Household well knew, a consuming interest in funerals. When the Duke of Clarence died, Dr Reid had advised her not to go to the funeral on the grounds that her health might be affected by such a depressing occasion. 'She replied that she was never depressed at a funeral (!!) In fact she rather lost her temper.' 1
'It is very curious to see how the Queen takes the keenest interest in death and all its horrors,' Marie Mallet had written after a housemaid had died at Grasse. 'Our whole talk had been of coffins and winding sheets.' There was 'a sort of funeral service' for the housemaid in the dining room of the Grand Hotel, the coffin in the middle of the room 'not even screwed down, everyone in evening dress, the servants sobbing; it was too dreadful'. When the coffin was removed to the English church the Queen had required her Household to visit it, then to attend a full funeral service the next day.
Two days later the Queen had taken several members of her Household to Cannes cemetery to visit the tombs of various friends. 'We started soon after 3.30,' Mrs Mallet had written, 'and were not home till ten to seven! The gentlemen went in a separate carriage full to overflowing with wreaths for the favoured tombs.' 2
A week after this, various members of an unwilling Household had been required to attend the funeral of an officer of the Chasseurs des Alpes. 'As the Queen really enjoys these melancholy entertainments she