The Albert Memorial
Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born in 1819 and he married his cousin, Queen Victoria, in 1840.
Though the prince consort was widely regarded with suspicion and disdain in his adopted homeland, he was responsible for many achievements in London, including the hugely successful Great Exhibition of 1851, the profits from which he directed towards the establishment of the great institutions of South Kensington: the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Museum of Manufactures, which evolved into the Victoria and Albert Museum. Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood also owes its home to the prince consort.
Albert died suddenly of typhoid in 1861 and Victoria’s inconsolable grief and prolonged mourning have become legendary. The queen (who had been born at Kensington Palace) chose the southern side of Kensington Gardens as the site for an ornate and complex monument that would celebrate her late husband’s achievements.
The Albert Memorial was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, with a central gilded statue by JH Foley and Thomas Brock. The prince is sheltered by a towering Gothic canopy and surrounded by statuary commemorating his good works and the glories of civilisation, especially those of the British Empire.
The memorial’s construction took almost ten years to complete, as did a restoration project in the 1990s.
“Presently the statue of the good, kind, well-meaning gentleman will be placed upon the monumental pedestal – and then what a satire upon human glory it will be to see … that long marble array of the world’s demi-gods around the base, bracing their shoulders to the genial work and supporting their brother in his high seat. I still feel some lingering discomfort that this princely structure was not built for Shakespeare – but after all, maybe he does not need it as much as the other.”
Mark Twain: English Journals (1872)
Prince Albert’s name is immortalised all over London – from the Royal Albert Dock to the Royal Albert Hall, and from the Albert Bridge to the Prince Consort engine at Crossness, via the Albert Embankment. Every borough has a street or a structure named after him. He’s also commemorated by the Prince Albert Monument at Holborn Circus.