A hatchment is a diamond-shaped panel bearing the coat of arms of a person who has recently died. Displayed above the main entrance of a house during the mourning period, hatchments were used mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
This biography I'm reading about Queen Victoria says that she refused to remove the hatchment she had for her husband Prince Albert. What does that word mean?
Hatchments were normally on view for 6 to 12 months after a death, but Queen Victoria displayed Prince Albert's for much longer. She took it down just briefly for her daughter's wedding — 18 months after Albert's death — and put it up again.
The Queen was utterly devastated when her husband died at age 42, and she dressed in black for the rest of her life. At her own death 40 years later, she was buried with one of Albert's dressing gowns (a type of robe) laid next to her in the casket.
Mention of a hatchment appears in William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. Here, Rebecca and her husband Rawdon visit his brother soon after their father's death:
The gravel walk and terrace had been scraped quite clean. A grand painted hatchment was already over the great entrance, and two very solemn and tall personages in black flung open each a leaf of the door as the carriage pulled up at the familiar steps. Rawdon turned red, and Becky somewhat pale, as they passed through the old hall, arm in arm.