musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Photo Essay: The Albert Memorial in London

In 2013 I saw the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens in London, or rather I saw the scaffolding around the Albert Memorial. 

It was not a pretty sight. 

In June 2016 I had to cross Kensington Gardens en route to the V&A Museum and the scaffolding was gone and I finally had a chance to have a look. 

The Memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert who died in 1861. The cost of the Memorial (£120,000) was met by public subscription and it was opened in July 1872.

Prince Albert took his seat in 1875.

It is an impressive structure, with marble tableaux representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America at each corner of the memorial, while higher up are further figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering. These tableaux could fill a blogpost all on their own.

Asia

Asia

Africa

Africa

Europe

Europe

America

America

manufactures

manufactures

Commerce

Commerce

All around the base of the memorial the Parnassus frieze depicts celebrated painters, poets sculptors, musicians and architects, reflecting Albert’s enthusiasm for the arts. There are 187 exquisitely carved figures in the frieze.

It is an incredibly ornate memorial, and in the context of its era it must have really been a firm favourite amongst those who had the leisure time to stroll around Kensington gardens. However, it is doubtful whether the average Londoner living in the East End would have ever been to see it. Their lives were much more precarious, although it is interesting to note that Prince Albert died of Typhoid, a disease that was spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person.

The memorial is a very popular tourist site in London and there were crowds around it in the afternoon when I returned from the Science Museum. 

What is the attraction? 

I asked myself the same question, but then I find beauty in cemeteries and derelict places, so my tastes are slightly skewed. I am not in favour of memorials glorifying people, however, endowing a country with a museum like the Victoria and Albert is a much better legacy than a structure built to remember a Prince.  But, having said that, it is an impressive structure and a monument to the legacy of Queen Victoria who is still remembered all around England, and in many other parts of the globe.

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