The Albert Memorial in Hyde Park in London is a monument generally and not unjustly considered the perfect symbol of this High Victorian period, more perfect than the Houses of Parliament (in the early sixties at last approaching completion) were of the previous Early Victorian period.
When Prince Albert died suddenly of typhoid in 1861, Queen Victoria very quickly decided that a memorial should be built to honor her late husband. She invited seven leading architects to submit designs for a monument to be built in Kensington Gardens. It was to be located just to the north of the museum’s area which Albert had helped to build up, and to the west of where the Great Exhibition had been held.
Funds for the project came from public subscription, although only enough money was raised for the memorial. Early suggestions for the monument, which was initially known as the National Monument to HRH Prince Consort, included a monolithic obelisk. This was to be surrounded by statues, including an equestrian statue of Albert.
Noble in its plan and dimensions, built of varied and valuable material, and enriched with appropriate statuary, it is at once an adornment to the great city and a national memento of a good and wise man. Most of our public monuments have – been erected to men of the sword, and commemorate the achievements in arms of our naval heroes and military chiefs.
The Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial is reared to one who won fame in the ranks of peace, and whose glory it was that he used his exalted position for the highest ends, upholding good morality by his example and influence, and furthering the progress of the nation in every way. This Memorial to him is well worth a visit, and a leisurely examination of its artistic beauties.
The base of the monument is formed by three quadrangular flights of steps, arranged like part of a wide-spreading pyramid; at the four corners are large masses of carved granite, on which stand groups of marble statuary, gigantic in proportions, and representing Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Above the steps raises the pedestal of the Memorial, elaborately adorned with nearly 200 figures in high relief and of life size.
Famous National Monument
These are full-length portraits, or statues, – of celebrated painters and sculptors, poets and other writers, men of science, &c.; and you will be much interested if you can spend a few minutes in trying to identify these worthies. At the four corners of this podium, or pedestal, we find some more groups of allegorical statuary; representing Commerce, Manufactures, Agriculture, and Engineering.
Then comes the gigantic statue of Prince Albert, richly gilt, and resting on a pedestal fifteen feet high. He is sitting on a chair of state and robed as a Knight of the Garter. Over him is a richly decorated Gothic canopy, about thirty feet square, supported by groups of polished granite columns, and surmounted by a beautiful spire, highly ornamented up to the very top, where a cross completes this marvelous piece of art workmanship. The total height of the Memorial is 176 feet.
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