Funeral Miss Florence Nightingale



The funeral of Miss Florence Nightingale took place on Saturday at East Wellow, Hampshire, and simultaneously a Memorial Service, at which the King and Queen and Queen Alexandra were represented, was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The funeral ceremony in the little Hampshire villages was marked by a complete absence of publicity and formality ` in full harmony with the wishes of the heroine of the Crimea ‘though it was more than could be expected that the people of the countryside, amongst whom the noble-hearted lady had spent her girlhood and many of her subsequent years, could resist availing themselves of the opportunity of turning out in large numbers in her honour, undeterred by the rain which fell the whole day long.

When the special train conveying the body and the chief mourners arrived from Waterloo the approaches to Romsey Station were thronged with people, though but few were collected on the platform. Travelling in the train were Dr S. Shore Nightingale, Mr W. Shore NightingaleMr and Mrs Louis Shore Nightingale, Mr and Mrs Vaughan Nash, Mr and Mrs H. L. Stephen, Mr Arthur Hugh Clough, Miss B. A. Clough, Mrs Perrott, Mr and Mrs T. L. Coltman, Colonel Bonham-Carter, R.E., Miss Joan Bonham-Carter, Sir Harry Verney, Mr Fredrick Verney, and Mrs Nixon. As the bells from the old Abbey, with its flag at half-mast, tolled out a solemn knell, the doors of the darkly draped coach were thrown open, disclosing within a garden of flowers, in the centre of which was placed the plain oak coffin. Its only covering was a creamy-white cashmere shawl, such as Miss Nightingale was in the habit of wearing, while resting on it were a few wreaths chosen from the rest on account of the close relationship of the contributors; one, for instance, composed entirely of rich gladioli, being sent by the family. A bearer party selected from the Brigade of Guards removed the coffin from the coach. It was but fitting that the Army, for which she had done so much in life, should render her this last service in the hour of death. When the casket, with its floral covering, had been placed in the glass-panelled hearse more wreaths and crosses were brought from the station until the coach became one mass of flowers.

The little procession, consisting almost entirely of the chief mourners in single or pair-horse carriages, passed through old familiar streets. At every window the blinds were down, and men, women, and children collected in the doorways to witness the passing of the dead to East Wellow Churchyard, which is about four miles from Romsey Station. The procession turned into Embley Park, the former home of Miss Nightingale, and now thrown open by its present owner for this particular purpose, so that for the last time Florence Nightingale was carried beneath the shadow of the shrouded windows of the dwelling where she spent a happy childhood. The procession left the park within a few yards of the house where she had her first patient. The creeper-covered thatched cottage, in which as a child she nursed back to health the poor shepherd’s collie, still stands, and some of the mans descendants ‘the Snellgroves’ came out to pay a last tribute of respect. At length the picturesque little church of East Wellow was reached, and at the lynch gate the procession was met by the Rev S. M. Watson, vicar of Wellow, and the Rev. T. G. Gardiner, chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here four or five old labourers who had been members of Miss Nightingale’s class, when as a girl she taught at Embley Park, took up a position at the head of the procession. Most toughing was the contrast between the old bend men, almost at the end of their course, and the stalwart soldiers bearing the coffin. In the porch a pathetic figure rose feebly as the coffin passed. It was that of an old Hampshire an who fought at Sebastopol and was one of those whom in Scutari Hospital ‘The Lady of the Lamp’ personally attended and helped to restore to health and activity. The church was crowded and many people could not get near the doors. The service commenced with the hymn ‘The Son of God goes forth to war’. This was followed by ‘On the resurrection morn’, and the congregation joined in the concluding hymn ‘Now the labourer’s task is o’er’. The coffin was then deposited in the family vault wherein lie the bodies of Miss Nightingale`s parents. The wreaths and crosses numbered over three hundred. There were tributes from the King and Queen, while to a beautiful cross of orchids from Queen Alexandra was attached to a following inscription from her majesty
To Miss Nightingale
In grateful memory of the greatest benefactress to suffering humanity the Military Nursing Service
In the year 1853, and by her own individual exertions and heroism
From Alexandra                                August 20, 1910
Hospital and nursing institutions in all parts of the country were represented in the list of wreaths, and there were others from Princess Frederica, the American Ambassador and Mrs Whitelaw Reid, the Army Council the survivors of the Balaclava Light Brigade Charge – “To our benefactress and friend of nearly 60 years,” the Royal Army Medical Corps, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, the International Council of Nurses, the American Federation of Nurses, the Red Cross Society, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Nurses, the Army and Navy Male Nurses’ Co-operation, the Army and Navy Club, the Union Jack Club, Girton College, and from various regiments.

While the body of Miss Florence Nightingale was being borne to its resting place in a quiet old country churchyard there gathered in St. Paul’s Cathedral a great congregation to pay homage and reverence to her memory. There were representatives of our King and Queen, of Queen Alexandra, and other members of the Royal Family, of many institutions which are consecrated to works of mercy, and conspicuously of the Army to which Miss Nightingale came in a dark hour of trial and suffering as a ministering angel indeed. The “Lady with the Lamp,” flitting through the hospitals of the Crimea, lighted a flame, after a lapse of six-and-fifty years, burns as brightly to day and with even greater steadiness than it did in those far-off days. The work which her devoting and self sacrifice began is on a sure and certain basis, and at the end of a long life she had the satisfaction of knowing that her successors of today are organised, equipped, and supported in a manner which ensures that never again shall our sick and wounded soldiers in war time lack that tender care and nursing which gentle womankind alone can give.

Thus it was fitting that at Saturday’s service there should assemble beneath the great done of St. Paul’s many hundreds of the nursing sisters not only of the Army and Navy but of our great hospitals and institutions who revere Florence Nightingale as their exemplar and are striving to follow worthily in her footsteps. It was surely meet, too, that a place of honour was found near to the special representatives of the Army for some forty-veterans of the Crimea – bowed, white haired men with medals on their breasts to tell the tale of service for Queen and country. Most of these aged warriors were in the familiar red coated uniform of Chelsea Hospital, and as the congregation was assembling they spoke in low whispers of the time they remembered well when Florence Nightingale and her band of devoted women were the talk of an admiring and grateful country. Some, indeed, there were who could recall the fact that Miss Nightingale had nursed and tended them with her own hands. With quivering lip they spoke of that time, nearly six decades ago, which is more vivid in their memories that all else that has come between and in very near to them on this day of mourning.

Over three thousand people were given seats within the Cathedral, but the applications for admission represented many thousands more. The War Office had undertaken the allocation, but save for this fact and the presence as participants in the service of the famous band of the Coldstream Guards there was nothing military about the ceremonial. Under their conductor, Lieutenant J. Mackenzie Rogan, the band for half an hour before the set service commenced played Solemn, stately music – Handel’s Largo, the Judex from Gounod’s “Mors et Vita,” and the Sanctus from the same composer’s “Messe Solennelle.” Seats slightly in front of the general congregation, facing the choir were reserved for the Royal representatives. Major-General J. S. Ewart, representing his Majesty the King, was escorted to his seat by Canon Newbolt and Canon Alexander, who assisted by the Minor Cannons in residence, conducted the service. Near by sat Lord Wenlock. Colonel H. Streatfeild, Captain R. R. Bulkeley, Scots Guards, and Major J. E. B. Martin, who represented respectively her Majesty the Queen, Queen Alexandra, the Duke of Connaught, and Princess Christian. Present on behalf of the Army Council were Lieutenant General Sir W. H. Mackinnon and Mr R. H. Brade; of the Board of Admiralty, Captain C. E. Madden and Sir C. Inigo Thomas; and of the Board of Education, the Hon. Miss M. Lawrence; while the Army Medical Service was represented by Surgeon-General W. L. Gubbins (Director General), the Navy Medical Service by Staff Surgeon G. F. Dean, and the Indian Medical Service by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir R. H. Charles, Mr. John Burns, President of the Local Government Board, sat near to the American Ambassador and Mrs Whitelaw Reid, Mr R. S. Meiklejohn was present on behalf of the Prime Minister; Viscount Morley, Secretary of State for India, was represented by Sir Richmond Ritchie; the Earl of Crewe, Secretary of State for the Colonies, by Mr. C. T. Clay; and Mr Haldane, Secretary of State for War, by Mr. F. C. Bovenschon.

The various Army and Navy nursing associations were represented by delegations, and seats were also allocated to all the chief civilian nursing organisations and institutions, the principal London hospitals and workhouse infirmaries, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and two Liverpool hospitals in which Miss Nightingale took a special interest. The delegates attending on behalf of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses were Mr. W. G. Rathbone and Mr D. P. Pennant (hon. Secretaries), Miss A. M. Peterkin (acting general superintendent), and Miss A. C. Lowe (secretary). Viscount Goschen, chairman of the Council of the Institute, was unavoidably absent. The mourners further included: Cannon Edgar Sheppard (Sub-Dean of the Chapels Royal), General Henniker, General Bagge, Sir Herbert Stephen, Major Ricardo (Royal Hospital, Chelsea), Sir John and Lady Cockburn, Major Grant Duff (Black Watch), Colonel Magill (British Red Cross Society), General Luke O’Connor, Mr. T. Sano (Japanese Red Cross Society), Sir Thomas Barlow, Major Burrell and Major Fuhr (Royal Army Medical Corps), Miss Becher, matron-in-chief, and Miss McCarthy, principle matron. War Office (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service); Miss Sidney Browne, Miss Ray, King’s College Hospital, Miss Baxter, Chelsea Infirmary, and Miss Buchanan Riddell, University College Hospital (Territorial Force Nursing Service). All the churches were represented, the Rev. H. Macmillan being present on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, while places were likewise reserved for such organisations as the Salvation Army, the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Jewish Lads’ Brigade, and Working Men’s Clubs. Seats for the family of the late Miss Nightingale were occupied by Captain L. C. Ludlow, Mrs. Norman Moore, Mr. Benjamin Leigh-Smith, Miss Leigh-Smith, and Mrs. Nixon.

Just before the hour of noon the representatives of the City of London were shown to their places in the choir. The Lord Mayor was represented by Alderman Sir James Ritchie, who was attended by the Mace and Sword Bearers and other officers of the Corporation. Simple toughing dignity was the characteristic of the service, which opened and closed with two of Miss Nightingale’s favourite hymns – “The Son of God goes forth to war” and “The King of Love my shepherd is,” the former sung to the well-known tune “St. Anne” and the latter to the “Dominus regit me.” Sir George Martin accompanied on the organ and the entire congregation joined in the singing. The opening hymn was followed by prayer and Psalms, and the antiphon, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” was sung to Dr. Broft’s music. The clear voice of Canon Newbolt was uplifted in the reading of the well-known Lesson from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which forms a part of the Church Service for the Burial of the Dead. Then came some poignant moments when with low rumbling roll of side drums mingled with the deep measured thud of the bass drum the strains of the Dead March in “Saul” played by the military band, filled the sacred building with its music so nobly suggestive of the majesty of death. Crimean veterans standing with bowed heads were not ashamed to brush away a furtive tear as they listened to sounds which many a time have fallen on their ears as they have followed some loved comrade to his place of rest. Deeply impressive, too, was the rendering of the anthem from the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom – “Give rest, O Christ, to Thy servant with Thy Saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.” This was sung to the Kieff Chant, familiar in the Greek Church, with its wild wailing cadences, its weird effects of vocal light and shade, written for men’s voices only. So it was used now, for the male choristers of St. Paul’s sung it as it might have been sung in St. Petersburg or Moscow. There was no sermon and no allusion to her who had departed, save the simple thanksgiving to Almighty God that He had been pleased to deliver “Thy servant Florence out of the miseries of this sinful world.” Silently the ongregation went forth after the Benediction had been pronounced, lingering for a moment to listen to Gounod’s “Marche Solennelle,” played by the band with appropriate stateliness and solemnity.

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One thought on “Funeral Miss Florence Nightingale

  1. Florence Nightingale’s niece, Rosalind Nightingale (Nash) married my Great Great Uncle Vaughan Nash. I have photos of his brother (my Great Grandfather) with my mother when she was one year old. Vaughan Nash was Private Secretary to two Prime Minister’s, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Lord Asquith. He was an Economist/Journalist and wrote many books, one being on the Great Famine in India. I also have a letter written to my Great Grandfather from Queen Alexandra by her Secretary Knollys, thanking him for his letter of condolence when King Edward VII died.
    Robyn Wilton

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