Queen Victoria is known for many things, but what might surprise some is that she had an obsession with the occult which only grew after the death of her husband, Prince Albert. The death of Victoria’s husband absolutely devastated her, and resulted in her searching the country for the best genuine medium – a quest she considered successful with the discovery of a thirteen year old boy named Robert James Lees, who claimed he could “channel” the ghost of her dead husband Prince Albert.
But her obsession didn’t start with the death of her husband. “Spiritualism”, as it was referred, began to sweep over Great Britain in the mid 1800’s, and the Queen and her husband were not immune. According to an article in Victorian Web :
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Modern Spiritualism, a ‘strange and fascinating American import’, emerged in Britain in 1852, when the American Maria B. Hayden visited London and offered her services as a medium. She conducted séances of table rappings and spirit messages for a guinea per head (five guineas for ten). In short time similar séances were offered by a host of local mediums.
In the late Victorian era, a great number of people admitted to have communication with ghosts. Victorian Spiritualism, also known as the Spiritualism movement, emerged in the late nineteenth century and attracted people from different social classes, including Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert participated in Spiritualist séances as early as 1846. On July 15 that year, the clairvoyant Georgiana Eagle demonstrated her powers before the Queen at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight.
In 1861, the year when Prince Albert died of typhoid, a thirteen-year-old boy living in Leicester, Robert James Lees, who took part in a family séance, passed a message from Albert to the Queen in which he called her by the pet name known only to her and her late husband.
According to ListVerse :
[Victoria] knew that many mediums were frauds but finally found one who seemed genuine: Robert James Lees, a 13-year-old medium who claimed to channel the spirit of Albert.
She sent her courtiers to investigate the young medium. After impressing them with impossible-to-know details of Albert’s personal life, Lees was invited to see the queen at Buckingham Palace.
He went to the palace nine times. Each time, Victoria was left completely at his whim, prompting her to ask him to become resident medium of her royal household. The boy refused, promising that she could continue communicating through Albert’s former gun boy, John Brown. For more than 30 years, Brown remained Victoria’s medium, having a complete hold over her.
Many have questioned Queen Victoria and John Brown’s relationship, because their remains an heir of historical secrecy. According to The Daily Beast : However, according to, “Whisperers”, an authoritative new study of the influence of apparent spirit contact on the course of history from ancient times to the present day by Irish author J.H. Brennan, John Brown was much more than just a plain-spoken friend and shoulder to cry on – he was Queen Victoria’s medium, carrying messages to and from her dead husband Albert.
Brennan writes that while Brown “appalled the courtiers by his rough and ready manners”, Victoria saw Brown as her only real friend in the world after her husband died and while “contemporary gossips” concluded Brown must have made Victoria his mistress, “a more likely explanation is that Brown’s hold over Victoria may have been rooted, like the hold of Rasputin over his Tsarina, in the shadow world of spirit contact.”
After Albert died on December 14, 1861, Victoria “plunged into the horrors of a nervous breakdown that lasted two years” and withdrew from public and political life.
“Instead of learning to stand on her own feet, to use her undoubted powers of judgment, she continued to behave as if Albert were still alive. When decisions had to be taken, she attempted to guess what Albert would have done and used this as her yardstick.
“After Lees’ revelations, Brown was sent for and subsequently took up residence in Balmoral. He remained there, as Victoria’s constant companion and medium for more than thirty years. It seemed that when she wished to find out how Albert would have viewed a particular issue, she did not, as historians suppose, have to use her imagination. Brown would mount a séance and the dead prince would speak for himself.
Victoria kept a detailed record of these séances and after Brown’s death wrote a monograph about him which she wanted to publish. But her proposals were thwarted by her private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby, and by the then Dean of Windsor, Dr. Randal Davidson, who was so disturbed by the prospect that he threatened to resign as Court Chaplain. Rather than risk scandal, Victoria abandoned the idea. Ponsonby got hold of Brown’s private dairies and destroyed them. But the massive cover-up operation was not as thorough as it might have been. Years later, George VI happened on a detailed record of a John Brown séance that had somehow managed to survive.
He read it with great interest and mentioned the fact to his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Eventually the story leaked out until it was made public by the popular British journalist, Hannen Swaffer , who was also a Spiritualist. Despite Swaffer’s revelations, Queen Victoria’s interest in spirit contact failed to make much impression on the public mind; and less still on the minds of those historians and biographers dealing with the Victorian period. Thus background material on the whole fascinating story is difficult to come by.”
After Queen Victoria died, it is reported that she sent messages to her last surviving daughter, through the famed medium Lesley Flint.
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