The Legacy of Prince Albert

2021 is a year that marks 3 significant anniversaries in the life of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria:

• 170th anniversary of the Great Exhibition

• 160th anniversary of his death

• 150th anniversary of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall

Great Exhibition of 1851

• The first World’s Fair, the Great Exhibition took place in Hyde Park in a specially built glass structure designed by Joseph Paxton known as the Crystal Palace - a model for it can be seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum, alongside drawings and photographs of the event and the building.

• The exhibition was a celebration of the best in English manufacturing and design and was organised by Prince Albert and Henry Cole – the first Director of what would later become the Victoria and Albert Museum.

• Around 6 million people visited the exhibition in Hyde Park between May and October 1851 and was such a huge success that the profits led to the creation of Albertopolis - an area that is today known as South Kensington. Development of various institutions followed including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum as well as the Imperial Institute. The funds also helped to create an educational trust that is still in use today.

Albert’s death

• Albert died of typhoid on 9 December 1861, in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle

• Queen Victoria was so overwhelmed with grief, that she entered into a deep state of mourning, wearing black for the rest of her life

• Despite Albert not wanting any monuments erected in his memory, numerous public statues and places across Britain and the British Empire were erected and named in his honour.

• One of the most elaborate, and most beautiful is the Royal Albert Memorial (above), designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and erected in 1872. Its entire cost of the equivalent of £10 million was met entirely by public subscription.

• At the centre is a gilded bronze statue of Prince Albert, seated beneath an ornate canopy, holding the catalogue for the Great Exhibition, which had been held in nearby Hyde Park.

• The memorial has an elaborate stone frieze depicting prominent figures in the arts and sciences, and at the four lower corners of the memorial are personifications of Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

Royal Albert Hall

• Following the success of the Great Exhibition, Prince Albert proposed a series of permanent buildings and facilities that would benefit the public. Sadly Albert died before he could see all of his ideas realised, but the South Kensington Museums and the Royal Albert Hall are among his greatest legacies.

• This magnificent Great Hall was originally called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, and renamed the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences in his honour, though it is affectionately known as "The Nation's Village Hall".

• The Hall hosts more than 390 shows a year, including classical, rock and pop concerts, opera and ballet, sporting events and awards ceremonies.

• The artist Peter Blake, has created a mural "Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall" which depicts more than 400 famous people who have performed at the venue, and can be seen at the Hall's Cafe Bar.

• The Royal Albert Hall is the practical part of the memorial to the Prince Consort, and sits directly across from the Albert Memorial, which forms the decorative part.

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