Wolverhampton’s Mayoress is looking to solve a Victorian mystery as the city counts down the days to the 150th anniversary celebrations of its iconic Prince Albert Statue. Next Wednesday (NOV 30) marks 150 years to the day that Queen Victoria travelled to Wolverhampton to unveil the famous tribute to her beloved late husband. The city is celebrating the occasion with a programme of celebrations including a military parade, a re-enactment of Victoria’s visit and a mass toast to the statue at exactly 1.50pm.

Meanwhile, the Mayoress – Mrs Margaret Findlay – is keen to solve a mystery which has left leading historians stumped. The story goes that the grieving Queen’s visit to Wolverhampton was her first public appearance after years of private mourning. The Queen is known to have snubbed similar invitations from bigger towns and cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool. However, the reason why she accepted Wolverhampton’s invitation is the source of some debate.

It is widely believed that the Queen had been incredibly moved by a document she received shortly after Albert’s death in 1861 from a group Wolverhampton widows. Upon reading it, she vowed that were she ever to make a public appearance again, it would be in Wolverhampton.

Some believe the document was a short letter from three widows, others believe it was a formal declaration signed by 220 grieving women from Wolverhampton and surrounding villages expressing their sympathy with the recently bereaved monarch.

However, efforts to track down the document have proved fruitless – Wolverhampton Archives do not have a copy of the document and a request to the Royal Archives in Windsor also failed.

Organisers of the Prince Albert 150 celebrations contacted the historian Helen Rappaport – a leading expert on Victoria and Albert – who was an advisor on the recent ITV drama ‘Victoria’.

Ms Rappaport did not know if the original document exists, but she did point organisers in the direction of a report from the Essex Standard, 25th April 1862, which quotes something called ‘An Address to the Queen by the Widows of Wolverhampton’.

It report says: “May it please your Majesty – We, the widows of this town, beg to humbly approach your Majesty to offer you the deepest sympathy from our own stricken hearts. We, who have felt the bitter pang of bereavement, can most truly mourn with your Majesty's great grief, so nobly borne. Knowing, alas! too well, that no earthly consolation can avail in such a  sorrow, we would humbly venture to remind your Majesty that the Father of the fatherless has said, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted", and has promised that in his glorious kingdom he will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things have passed away." We are your Majesty's most dutiful, most humble, and most devoted servants.” 

The Essex Standard reported that the address had 220 signatures.

The Mayoress, Mrs Margaret Findlay, said: “It was a tremendous honour for Wolverhampton when Queen Victoria chose to come here to make her first public appearance after years of private mourning.

“Much of the establishment and national media were very sniffy about little Wolverhampton being in the limelight at the expense of bigger towns and cities.

“The visit made headlines around the world. However, we would love to know more about what this document was which inspired Victoria to come here.

“It is widely reported that a group of fellow widows from Wolverhampton wrote to her and touched her – but we haven’t been able to find the original document so we don’t have any names or a definite account of what was said.

“We would love to hear from anyone who knows more. Perhaps you are a relative of someone who signed the document, perhaps you have letters or diaries from the time which make reference to it.

“Who knows, there might even be the original document or a copy of it out there somewhere. It would be wonderful to solve this mystery once and for all.”