Sometimes, research takes you into new and unforeseen subjects, and when I started investigating the role of crochet in Victorian society, I was certainly NOT expecting stories of valour and heroism in the theatre of war.
So the story goes, Queen Victoria was a great proponent of crochet. She was originally introduced to crochet by way of a gift of Irish crochet lace, and took up the hobby in the 1840s. As a fashion icon*, her interest in Irish lace and crochet sparked a wider fad that spread over class and station, and crochet became a popular pastime for many, many young English women.
It was a hobby that Victoria enjoyed for her entire life, and in her last year, she crocheted 8 scarves which were given to soldiers fighting in South Africa.
One of these scarves was given to Private Richard Rowland Thompson in recognition of his heroism. As a medical assistant in the Royal Canadian Regiment, he came to the aid of his wounded comrades multiple times during the battle of Paardeberg in February 1900. At one point, he stayed for seven hours to maintain pressure on the ruptured jugular vein of one soldier; nine days later, he navigated 200 yards of through enemy fire to reach another. While he was unsuccessfully recommended for the Victoria Cross, his valour was nonetheless recognized by the gift of the scarf, made by the hands of the Queen herself. This scarf is now on display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
There you go. A tidbit of crochet history, that includes a severed jugular and enemy fire.
Victorian Crochet Patterns
*IMO, yes, she was a fashion icon. If the Queen did it, ladies across the British Empire went mad for it. Wedding dresses, funeral traditions, food stuff… I don’t think it was called ‘the Victorian Era’ because she was simply the queen, but rather because her tastes formed the style of an entire society for the whole century.