The Albert Memorial stands in Kensington Gardens facing the Royal Albert Hall. It is a national memorial to a Prince who prematurely died in 1861 of typhoid. His death was deeply felt by his widow Queen Victoria and a nation mourned the loss of a man who through his hard work influenced the whole society of his adopted country.
Under this very elaborate churchlike canopy, stands the golden shiny statue of Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria.
He definitely catches the eye in a pose that shows the confidence of a man who lived in an era of adventure, discovery, invention, the celebration of arts and science that defined Britain’s confidence and superiority as an imperial power.
His most memorable achievement was The Great Exhibition held in 1851. The event was to promote the Works of Industry of All Nations – he is holding a catalogue of the exhibition in his right hand.
Walking around the monument you realise there is so much to take in – less is more clearly was not a familiar concept for the Victorians. Take note of the design, the gilded angels at the top ‘guarding’ Albert, precious stones decorate the pillars, mosaic designs cover the canopy.
At each corner, there are four groupings of allegorical statues representing agriculture, industry, commerce art and science.
Beyond the memorial there are more statuary groups – one on each corner. They represent the continents – -Europe, Asia, Africa and…
America? Didn’t Britain lose the colonies back in 1776? The four groups actually represent the four corners of the world. America was designed and sculpted by John Bell a highly regarded sculptor in his day.
He decided to depict human progress in the Americas, with figures representing Canada and the United States and two others representing Central and South America at the rear. All are grouped around a massive bison with female on its back personifying the spirit of the continent.
The male statue represents the indigenous inhabitants who lived in the Americas before the European immigrants arrived and settled. Take a look at his staff – it’s topped with an unusual carved head.
As you walk around there are carved figures of men in various poses around the base. Some are identified as the names are carved below. Take your time to study them -there are actually 168 men, 1 woman and two dogs. This is the Parnassus frieze.
Some seem as if they could break their pose and step out to say hello! The groupings are musicians and poets, painters, sculptors and architects. Apparently, the rule was that the chosen subjects “must be dead” to qualify!
Handel, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Barry are represented; the latter is Charles Barry who designed and built the Palace of Westminster more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament.
There was one exception to that rule – the inclusion of Sir George Gilbert Scott an architect who was essentially the project manager of the memorial.
The memorial is surrounded by ornate iron railings. To have a closer view of the memorial The Royal Parks offers tours, but they are currently on hold.
About the author:
Angela Morgan is a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide, passionate about discovering new things and learning new ways to reach out across the world to promote the best of London and the outskirts. She offers a series of tours and guided walking tours, and is particularly interested in tours about ethnic London and ethnic Britain (it includes interesting walks around Brixton & Spitalfields. If you want to know more about her work, please visit her Instagram page or reach out directly to Angela here.