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Beyond the Archive Door: Queen Victoria and General Gordon

Special Memorial Order of Service for Queen Victoria's Funeral in 1901
Posted By : Emily Naish Thursday 12th March 2015
What do Queen Victoria and General Gordon have in common?  The orders of services for their memorial services are both rare nineteenth century survivors in the Cathedral archive.  Over the years a large pile of orders of services has accumulated in the archive, for all types of services from baptisms, to marriages and carol concerts.  Chris, a volunteer in the Cathedral archive, is presently sorting all these, organising them by types of service and by date.  The vast majority date from the second half of the twentieth century - only a very few nineteenth century ones have survived.  Two of these are memorial services for Queen Victoria and General Gordon.  
 
 
Queen Victoria’s funeral was held on Saturday 2 February 1901 at 14.00.  In the archive we have a both an ‘official’ A5 size booklet called Special Forms of Service in Commemoration of Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria to be used either on the day of the funeral or on the most convenient Day within the Octave.  The only hymn in this booklet is O God, our Help in Ages Past.  There is also another related leaflet containing the thanksgiving for Victoria and a prayer for Victoria’s son and successor Edward VII.  Actually the booklet was used again on the death of Edward VII in 1910 – the text changed accordingly and the phrase his love of peace inserted.  
 
 
An even earlier order of service is that for General Gordon and Others who have Fallen in the Soudan on Friday 13 March 1885.  General Gordon was a British army officer and administrator. He died on 26 January 1885 while defending Khartoum in the Sudan against Muhammad Ahmad, the self-proclaimed Mahdi, the messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith.  Unfortunately the British relief force arrived two days after the Khartoum had fallen and Gordon had been killed. Gordon’s death led to an ‘unprecedented wave of public grief across Britain’.  The special service at Salisbury Cathedral included a short address by Dean Henry Hamilton and the hymn The Saints of God!
 
 
The earliest order of service discovered so far is that for the funeral of Bishop Walter Hamilton on 7 August 1869.  A note records that ‘to insure order it has been found necessary to admit to the Cloisters by Ticket only’.
 
 
View images of the orders of services here.