Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial seen from the south side

The Albert Memorial is situated in Kensington Gardens, London, directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband Prince Albert, who died in 1861. The memorial was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic Revival style. Opened in July 1872 by Queen Victoria, with the statue of Albert ceremonially "seated" in 1876,[1] the memorial consists of an ornate canopy or pavilion, in the style of a Gothic ciborium over the high altar of a church,[2] containing a statue of the prince facing south. The memorial is 176 feet (54 m) tall, took over ten years to complete, and cost £120,000 (the equivalent of about £10,000,000 in 2010). The cost was met by public subscription.

The memorial has been Grade I listed since 1970.[3]

Commission and design

The Memorial statue of Albert, by John Henry Foley and Thomas Brock
Audio description of the memorial by Joely Richardson

When Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861, at the age of 42, the thoughts of those in government and public life turned to the form and shape of a suitable memorial, with several possibilities, such as establishing a university or international scholarships, being mentioned. Queen Victoria, however, soon made it clear that she desired a memorial "in the common sense of the word". The initiative was taken by the Lord Mayor of London, William Cubitt, who, at a meeting on 14 January 1862, appointed a committee to raise funds for a design to be approved by the Queen. The control and future course of the project, though, moved away from Mansion House, and ended up being controlled by people close to the Queen, rather than the Mayor. Those who determined the overall direction from that point on were the Queen's secretary, General Charles Grey, and the keeper of the privy purse, Sir Charles Phipps. Later, following the deaths of Grey and Phipps, their roles were taken on by Sir Henry Ponsonby and Sir Thomas Biddulph. Eventually, a four-man steering committee was established, led by Sir Charles Lock Eastlake. Eastlake had overall control for the project until his death in 1865. An initial proposal for an obelisk memorial failed, and this was followed in May 1862 by the appointment of a seven-strong committee of architects. A range of designs were submitted and examined. Two of the designs (those by Philip Charles Hardwick and George Gilbert Scott) were passed to the Queen in February 1863 for a final decision to be made. Two months later, after lengthy deliberations and negotiations with the government over the costs of the memorial, Scott's design was formally approved in April 1863.