After her husband, Alfred, died of typhoid in 1861, Queen Victoria entered into a long period of mourning. She routinely wore black. She rarely set foot in London, where he had passed away, preferring instead to see out her time at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. In fact, so grief-stricken was the queen, and so uncharacteristically introverted did her behaviour become, that to many Victorian subjects she became known as the ‘Widow of Windsor’.
Queen Victoria: Loved posing for portraits, seemingly (Public domain/Wikimedia)
She also, oddly, developed a fear of matches, matchboxes, and of 2.45 in the morning.
According to her diaries, six months after Alfred’s death, Victoria began having a recurring dream in which Alfred would stand silently, in full military regalia, at the foot of her bed, holding a lit match in his hand. He would say nothing, and do nothing. But the apparition was enough to wake the queen from her sleep—always, give or take, at around quarter to three in the morning.
Victoria wrote in her diary on 4 June 1864:
A dreadful night, another in a recent slough of them. I thought the dream of my dear Alfred that had so plagued my last stay in Scotland had dissipated, once and for all; but alas, this past night, at his usual time, he again visited my chambers, again holding that single burning match a-front of him, and again had no word of comfort to assuage my grief. The match, the dress, the time—all the same!
So unnerved was the queen by the dream, that she banned her staff at Osborne House from using matches and matchboxes in her presence, and ordered that the lamps and fire in her bedroom be lit by tapers, sparked from an oil lamp that was kept continually burning outside her door.
In later years, she also reportedly became fixated with the regular time at which she had routinely awoken from Alfred’s dream, and in 1872 confided in her friend Susanna Innes-Ker, the Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe, that she believed the time of her eventual death would be 2.45AM.
(Spoiler alert: she actually died about 6.30PM, on 22 January 1901.)