The Albert Memorial Is One of the Grandest High-Victorian Gothic Extravaganzas Existing:
On a bright and sunny London day, the Albert Memorial, with its golden statue of Prince Albert and gilded spire, glow like a beacon in the summer sky. This London memorial was built to make an impression and has been described as ‘one of the grandest high-Victorian Gothic extravaganzas anywhere’.
Situated at the southern end of Kensington Gardens the Albert Memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband Prince Albert. The Prince died in 1861 when he was only 42. He and Queen Victoria had been happily married for 21 years and they had nine children. When he died, the Queen went into deep mourning which she maintained for the rest of her life.
The Albert Memorial in London was completed in 1876, 15 years after his death and where it stands is near the site of the 1851 Great Exhibition which Prince Albert was heavily involved in. This London monument is 55 metres high and it was designed along the lines of a medieval market cross, although on a more elaborate scale. At the base of the canopy runs a frieze with the following inscription:
‘Queen Victoria and her people – A tribute to the memory of Albert Prince Consort – As a Tribute of their gratitude – for a life dedicated to the public good.’
Albert Monument Features
The centrepiece of the Memorial is the larger than life seated figure of Prince Albert facing the Royal Albert Hall. It was created by John Foley and it shows Prince Albert holding an exhibition catalogue. The 187 exquisitely carved figures around the base of the monument represent famous painters, poets, sculptors, architects and musicians reflecting Prince Albert’s interests for the arts.
At the four corners below the statue of the prince are allegorical marble sculptures representing agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing.
At the outermost corners are impressive allegorical sculptures by various sculptors representing Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas which reflect Albert’s international concerns. The monument took over ten years to complete and cost about £120,000 at the time, which is about £10 million in today’s money.
Those who have viewed this Memorial prior to 1998 would have seen a totally black monument. Some suggest it was painted black during World War I to avoid being targeted by the German bombing raids whereas other research indicate that the black coating existed before 1914 and could be due to pollution. The monument was only re-guilded in 1998 and it was unveilled by Queen Elizabeth II.
Kensington Gardens is a serene Royal Park to stroll through and the beautiful Prince Albert Memorial is certainly worth a visit. There are public tours of the monument at 14:00 and 15:00 on the first Sunday of the month from March to December. You don’t have to book for this, just show up and payment (£5.00) can be made to the guide before the tour starts. The tour gives you access inside the memorial railings, so you can appreciate the craftsmanship up close.
Prince Albert was a popular Prince Consort and there are many other Albert Memorials around the U.K.
Map of Kensington Gardens:
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