March 27, 1878 — Sir George Gilbert Scott, the English architect who designed the Albert Memorial, located in Hyde Park, London, died on this day. Queen Victoria was described as an “utterly broken-hearted and crushed widow” when in 1861 her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in Windsor Castle at the age of 42.
In his honour, she had the Albert Memorial built at a cost of £120,000 – about £10.5 million ($17 million) in today’s money. Standing 180 feet (54 metres) high and featuring a huge seated gilt bronze statue of the Prince, it is one of the grandest high-Victorian gothic extravaganzas. Officially titled the Prince Consort National Memorial, it was unveiled by the grieving Queen in 1872 and celebrates Victorian achievement, along with Albert's passions and interests.
He was said to have been struck down by typhoid fever, but modern medical experts, pointing to the fact that Albert had been ill for two years, think that he may have been suffering from a chronic disease such as abdominal cancer. Whatever the cause of death, Victoria never recovered from her grief, withdrawing from public life and dressing in black for many years.
Albert was born in Germany and belonged to a family that was connected to many of Europe's ruling monarchs. He was 20 when he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, and they went on to have nine children. Just before the marriage, he was naturalised as a British citizen by Parliament and granted the title of Royal Highness. As well as running the Queen’s administrative affairs, he became interested in a number of causes, such as educational reform and the worldwide abolition of slavery.
Victoria, however, remained a slave to his memory for the rest of her long life. And she would no doubt think it fitting that in October, 1998, after four years of restoration costing another £10 million, the Albert Memorial, amid pageantry and pride, was unveiled for the second time – on this occasion by Elizabeth, the Queen who has now overtaken Victoria as Britain’s longest-ever reigning monarch.
Published: April 24, 2016