The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is a striking structure that catches the eye of many visitors. However, its intricate design and the story behind it often go unnoticed. In this article, we will delve into the history of the memorial, explore its design and influences, and learn more about the man it was built to honor.
Queen Victoria chose to erect the memorial in Kensington Gardens, but why? What do the figures and symbols adorning the structure represent? These questions and more will be answered as we take a closer look at the Albert Memorial and the man it commemorates.
History of the Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial, unveiled in 1872, is a tribute to Prince Albert, the late prince consort. It is situated across from the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington Gardens, London. The full title of the memorial is the Prince Consort National Memorial, but it is commonly known as the Albert Memorial.
The idea of building a memorial for Prince Albert was suggested immediately after his death in 1861. In 1862, seven leading architects were asked to advise on potential structures for the memorial, and Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Gothic-style submission was chosen as the winning design.
However, there were many delays in the construction of the memorial due to its elaborate design, and it was not officially opened until 1872. The cost of building the memorial was also a significant factor in the delay, with over £120,000 spent on its construction, equivalent to £10 million in today’s money.
The Albert Memorial commemorates the Victorian age and celebrates imperial Britain, embodying the late prince’s interests and passions. It was only natural for the location of the memorial to be in close proximity to the Royal Albert Hall, a venue that Prince Albert had proposed and planned, but never lived to see built.
Interestingly, it had been suggested that a statue be built in Hyde Park to commemorate Prince Albert’s work for the Great Exhibition during his lifetime, an idea that he did not take to at all. In fact, in his biography, Theodore Martin notes Prince Albert’s precise response, stating that he would much rather not be made the prominent feature of such a monument.
Despite its delays and expense, the Albert Memorial was well-received and has stood for over a century and a half, bringing imposing grandeur to its corner of Kensington Gardens.
Looking Closer at the Albert Memorial: Design & Influences
The Albert Memorial is a grand monument that showcases the best of the high Victorian gothic style. It was erected in memory of Prince Albert, who was Queen Victoria’s husband. The memorial depicts Prince Albert sitting down, holding a catalogue of the Great Exhibition, which he had inspired and helped create. He sits under a canopy decorated with allegorical figures of the arts, which is another reference to his enduring passion for artistic expression.
The monument’s periphery is adorned with marble figures representing four of the continents – Europe, Asia, Africa, and The Americas. The Americas are represented by a bison, Europe a bull, Africa by a camel, and Asia by an elephant. These figures add to the grandeur of the monument and highlight the global reach of the British Empire.
At the base of the memorial, the Parnassus Frieze incorporates the figures of renowned artists – amongst them poets, musicians, painters, and poets. Prince Albert had been an ardent lover and supporter of the arts, so it felt fitting to incorporate this into the monument. The frieze adds to the artistic flair of the monument and showcases the importance of art in Victorian society.
The Christian Virtues & Angels
Two tiers of golden angels sit at the top of the memorial, underneath which are depictions of the Christian and moral virtues, also in gold. It’s difficult to identify the virtues individually, but collectively, the overall effect is impressive. The angels and virtues add to the religious symbolism of the monument and showcase the importance of Christianity in Victorian society.
The four statues to the industrial arts represent Victorian Britain at the height of production. The four, which illustrate agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, and engineering, sit in close proximity to the prince himself. Each was created by a different sculptor, though they had to align with Scott’s plan for the memorial. The statues showcase the importance of industry and commerce in Victorian society and highlight Britain’s position as a global economic power.
In conclusion, the Albert Memorial is a grand monument that showcases the best of the high Victorian gothic style. The monument’s design and influences highlight the importance of art, religion, and industry in Victorian society. The monument stands as a testament to Prince Albert’s enduring legacy and his impact on British society.
Who Was Prince Albert?
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born in Germany in 1819. He married his cousin, Queen Victoria of England, in 1840. Despite initial reservations about the union, the couple was very content and had nine children together.
Prince Albert was initially not well-received by the British public, but he won their support through his cool-headedness during a botched assassination attempt on Queen Victoria’s life and his championing of educational reform and the eradication of slavery worldwide.
In addition to his public work, Prince Albert was also a dedicated house husband, taking charge of the household and helping raise his children. All nine of his children made it to adulthood, a significant achievement in the Victorian era.
Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861 at the age of 42, which devastated Queen Victoria so much that she wore black every day until her own death over 40 years later.
Prince Albert’s legacy lives on through his contributions to British society and his influence on the royal family.
The venue of the event is located at Kensington Gardens, London W2 2UH.
Guests can take the underground and stop at Knightsbridge, South Kensington, or Gloucester Road. Alternatively, they can take the underground to Lancaster Gate or Queensway, which are on the other side of Hyde Park.