By indexer
2 years ago

The Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens, London

The monument to Prince Albert in Kensington Gardens, London, is one of the finest and most elaborate to be found anywhere in the country, let alone London. It is a splendid piece of Victoriana that is as much a memorial to the spirit of that age as it is of the Prince himself. It complements the nearby Royal Albert Hall, built at around the same time, towards which the statue of Prince Albert faces.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was the husband of Queen Victoria. They married in 1840 but Albert died of typhoid in 1861 at the age of only 42. Perhaps unusually for an arranged royal marriage, the couple were very much in love with each other from the start and Victoria felt his loss very deeply indeed. When the time came to propose a permanent memorial to him, it was clear that no expense would be spared, with the actual cost of £120,000 being met by public subscription.

Likewise, the recent restoration of the Albert Memorial to its original state, after more than a century of exposure to the elements, has been an expensive business. More than eleven million pounds were spent on an 8-year project that ended with the Memorial’s unveiling in 1998.

At the heart of the memorial is a seated statue of Prince Albert, three times life size. He is dressed as a Knight of the Garter and he holds a catalogue of the 1851 Great Exhibition of which he was a prime instigator and organiser. The whole memorial reflects the ethos of that Exhibition (which took place in Hyde Park, very close to the site of the Memorial) and illustrates Albert’s wide-ranging interests.

The statue was the work of John Foley, who was commissioned personally by Queen Victoria. Although the Memorial was, as mentioned above, funded by public subscription, Victoria paid for the actual statue herself. A model of the statue was first placed on its plinth in 1870, but the full gilt-bronze version only appeared in 1875, three years after the Memorial was opened. It was painted black at some time before the First World War, probably to mask the pitting of the gold by atmospheric pollution, but the recent restoration included a full coating of gold leaf.

However, the Memorial is far more than the statue of Prince Albert. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and takes the form of a “ciborium” or canopy that acts as a roof to the statue – a very upmarket gazebo, one might say. Scott was a leading exponent of the Gothic Revival – he designed St Pancras Station for example – and it is no surprise that the Memorial has many Gothic features, including church-like composite pillars, pointed arches and an emphasis on height – the cross at the top is 176 feet above ground level.

One can spend a long time taking in everything that the Memorial has to offer. For example, below the plinth on which the statue rests is a frieze, on all four sides, that depicts 169 practitioners in the arts. The south side features musicians and poets, on the east side are painters, to the north are architects and on the west side are sculptors.

On the corners of the canopy base are sculptural groups representing Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering and Manufacture, and further out, on the corners of the wider platform, are groups to represent the continents of Asia, Africa, America and Europe – which is a bit tough on Australia!

Further up the canopy are mosaics that feature Poetry, Painting, Architecture and Sculpture, and there are statues to represent the practical arts and sciences, and the cardinal and theological virtues.

The friezes and sculptures were created by a number of different artists.

Around the canopy are inscribed the words: “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”.

All in all, one can spend a considerable time looking at everything that the Albert Memorial has to offer – it is a veritable museum of sculpture all on its own. However, in order to do so one should take a pair of binoculars, not only to see the features high up on the structure but because there is no public access closer than the outermost “continent” sculptures. Highly ornate railings keep people at bay, which is understandable given that some of them might be tempted to scrape the gold off Albert’s statue!

2 years
Joanac Nice article! Very well
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2 years
soncee Beautiful artikle friend thanks for the info
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Snezana thank you
2 years