The Albert Memorial
When Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died unexpectedly in 1861 at the age of 42, Queen Victoria was grief stricken. She began to withdraw from the public, dressed herself only in black – a habit she would continue until the day she died – and began a huge effort to memorialise and commemorate her husband in any way possible. The Albert Memorial is a visual explanation of how Queen Victoria saw her husband.
A team of people close to Victoria worked together on various ideas for a monument that would please the Queen. Design and deliberation went on for years and it was not until 1863 that the design for the monument was formally approved by Victoria. The winning design was by noted architect George Gilbert Scott.
Central to the memorial is the large, seated sculpture of Prince Albert himself. The final statue was cast in bronze and then decorated with gilt. The figure is facing the Royal Albert Hall, tying in the two creations, both made to honour Albert. The location of the Memorial is meaningful in that it has been built upon the site of the Great Exhibition – a once-in-a-lifetime event celebrating the British Empire and showing the British glimpses of life from throughout the world. In fact, his statue is holding a catalogue of The Great Exhibition to reference this.
The central part of the memorial is surrounded by the Frieze of Parnassus, containing over 160 depictions of musicians, sculptors, painters, poets and architects which have been put on display in chronological order. At the corners of the monument sit two allegorical sculpture sets. One depicting Victorian industry and science (agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing) and the other showcasing the four corners of the earth (Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas).
The canopy is an intricate blend of dozens of pieces of sculpture – Allegorical figures of art, historical figures, statues representing arts and sciences as well as Christian virtues. The canopy has words surrounding it as follows: Queen Victoria and Her People . To The Memory of Albert Prince Consort . As A Tribute Of Their Gratitude . For A Life Devoted to the Public Good. Above all is situated gilded angels raising their arms, crowned by a gold cross.
– Architects who have work on display at the Memorial: Henry Hugh Armstead, Thomas Thornycroft, Patrick MacDowell, John Bell, John Henry Foley, William Theed, William Calder Marshall, James Redfern, John Lawlor, Henry Weekes, William Caldar Marshall, Thomas Brock, John Birnie Philip, Henry Weekes, John Gibson.
– Years taken to Construct: 10
– Officially Opened: July 1872
– Height: 176ft (54m)
– Cost: £120,000. Equating to around £10million today.
– Location: The Albert Memorial is in Kensington Gardens
– Visiting Hours: Visitors to Kensington Gardens can view the Memorial at any time. It closes when the park closers (around nightfall throughout the year).
– Nearest Underground Station: High Street Kensington
– Bus Routes: 9, 10, 52, 70, 360, 452