Prince Consort Albert was the husband of Queen Victoria from 1840 until his death in 1861. Having a passion for the arts, Prince Albert was the inspiration behind the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. The complete title was the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Queen Victoria commissioned the memorial after his death in 1861.
Initially named the Prince Consort National Memorial and designed by George Gilbert Scott in “high-Victorian gothic” style influenced by the 13th century Eleanor Crosses, it stands in Kensington Gardens across from the Royal Albert Hall.
Prince Albert is depicted holding the catalogue for the Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park in 1851. Among the many items represented in the Exhibition were:
- Syria: “silk, gold, siver [sic] lace and embroidery, native jewellery, [sic] Lebanon horns, petrefactions, oils, different sorts of woods, seeds, the apples of Sodom, etc.”
- Pacha of Jerusalem: “Bethlehem work in mother-of-pearl, which is brought by the Hadji from Mecca, such as the crucifixion, and other holy subjects”
- Ireland: “Waterford glass…and epergne of most massive dimensions, embellished with the most exquisite cuttings”
- St. Helen’s: “stained glass…a splendid painting of the Archangel Michael casting out of Heaven the great Red Dragon”
- St. Kilda: “a piece of cloth and a plaid obtained from that island…of native manufacture”
- Vatican: “a half figure of St. John the Baptist, copied from Guercino’s celebrated picture, and executed in fine mosaic by the artist Castellini” (Things to be looked for, The Observer, Feb. 2, 1851, p. 4)
At each of the corners of the base were representations of Africa, Asia, Europe, and America.
Further up toward the central section are figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering. The base frieze depicts 187 figures of painters, sculptors, musicians, architects, and poets, reflecting Prince Albert’s appreciation for the arts.
On the spire are gilded bronze statues of the angels and virtues. Throughout the Exhibition, the London Morning Chronicle ran supplements of
the most copious details respecting everything of interest connection with the Great Exhibition…the fullest information on all matters worthy of their attention, whether within the building of the Exhibition, or throughout the Metropolis. (Oct 10, 1851, p. 1.
The paper also provided descriptions in French and German to assist the many tourists visiting the Exhibition.
Additional sources not cited in text: The Royal Parks.org.uk; Death of the Prince Consort. (Dec. 21, 1861). Hampshire Telegraph and Naval Chronicle, p. 7.