What Does the Victoian Attitude to Death Tell Us About the Period?

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  • Topic: Victoria of the United Kingdom, Victorian era, Social class
  • Pages : 5 (1768 words )
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  • Published : January 5, 2006
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What does the Victorian attitude to death tell us about the period?

The Victorians attitude to death was multi-faceted. They believed in Are Morendi, death was very commercial during that period. Death was virulent and the process of burial or cremation was very ritualistic. During the period, death became more medicalised and there were changes to how each different religion treated death.

Death was virulent in Victorian Britain; it "surrounded the Victorians – at home and in the streets" as a result of this ‘cure all' pills became fashionable. These were pills that claimed to cure everything from backache to typhoid. In London almost a quarter of children died before they reached aged 5, this figure decreased a little when you went out of London, except in Bradford which had the highest infant death rate in the whole of England Families were so used to children dying young that they took a while before they named them, often just referring to them as baby until they to a few years old or the next child came along. Death was so commonplace that the etiquette of what to do when calling round a family that had recently had a deceased, was in Mrs Beetons's Book of Household Management, which was the middle class wife's bible on how to behave.

Death for the Victorians was very ritualistic, from the dress to the funeral procession. Vaults had been popular before the Victorian age but now became a fashion and social statement; they were a way of showing wealth. There was a strict dress code that was mostly for women during the mourning period. Full mourning had to be worn from the day of the funeral for a year if it was for immediate family, then half mourning for another 6 months, then after that it was appropriate for people to wear colourful clothes and continue with their life. For other relations, it was half mourning for six to nine months. There were rules about stationary during the mourning period, hatband width for men and other such minute details that had to be kept to for at least appearances sake. This was often for the dual purpose of showing respect for the dead, allowing time for grief and showing status. The rich women went into mourning for the full time to show that they had been well cared for and they had no need to immediately remarry, as marriage was the only way for women to survive. Women that came out of mourning early and remarried were seen as unfeeling or as being left poor. Working class women did not often have the luxury of going into mourning for long, they would dye an old dress black and wear it for as long as possible and remarry if possible but they would carry on working, as they would often be the main provider for the family. Other rituals regarding the death process were less strict. The time from death to burial changed depending on the season and on weather the family had enough space in the house for the body to be kept in another room (the poor families often had to sleep in the same room as the dead until the burial). The funeral procession gradually changed over the period, as technology advanced. It went from black horse-drawn hearses from the home to the cemetery, to funeral carts on the railway from the home across the country by rail to the home of the deceased and their chosen cemetery. It was customary for the friends and relatives of the deceased to visit the body before the funeral, this came from before medical advancements, to check that it was who it was claimed to be and that the person was actually dead, connected to that was the practice of putting bells on gravestones in case the person was buried alive that declined. Death was hugely commercial during the Victorian period. The horses that were used for the funeral procession were black and imported mostly from Holland and Belgium. They were imported before they were three years old and quickly trained for the job, if they could not be trained or did not have the temperament they were sold on at a...
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