About Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most ornate monuments. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria to honour her husband, Prince Albert, after his death in 1861.
Albert Memorial history
Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the memorial stands near the southern boundary of the park, between Alexandra Gate and Queen’s Gate and was unveiled in 1872. The memorial was built from 1864-1876, after a national competition to select a design and cost a total of £120,000 which was raised by a combination of public subscription and Parliamentary grants.
Influenced by the series of 13th Century Eleanor Crosses such as Charing Cross and other statues in Edinburgh and Manchester, Scott’s memorial design is in the victorian gothic style. The centrepiece of the memorial is a 14-foot high statue of Prince Albert holding the catalogue of the Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park in 1851, which he inspired and helped to organise.
The memorial is rife with allegory. There are 169 pieces of statuary figures incorporated into the design. Marble figures representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America stand at each corner of the memorial. Higher up, further figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering. Above these are gilded bronze statues of the angels and virtues. The Frieze of Parnassus at the base of the memorial depicts celebrated painters, poets sculptors, musicians and architects, reflecting Prince Albert’s enthusiasm for the arts.
By the late 1990s the memorial had fallen into a state of some decay. A thorough restoration was carried out by Mowlem which included cleaning, repainting and re-gilding the entire monument as well as carrying out structural repairs.
Following the restoration, the statue of Albert was covered in gold leaf. For 80 years before this, the statue had been covered in black paint. Various theories had existed that it was deliberately blackened during World War One to prevent it from becoming a target for Zeppelin bombing raids or domestic anti-German sentiment. However, English Heritage’s research prior to the restoration suggests that the black coating pre-dates 1914 and may have been a response to atmospheric pollution that had destroyed the original gold leaf surface.
Albert Memorial today
Today the memorial is a popular attraction for those visiting London and enjoying Hyde Park. Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria, is nearby. The Royal Parks organisation offer paid walking tours that delve into the history of the memorial, Victoria and Albert’s relationship and the £11.2 million worth of restoration projects.
Getting to Albert Memorial
The memorial stands opposite the Royal Albert Hall, on the southern fringe of Kensington Gardens. The site is easily accessible by public transport. Tube stations nearby include South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Knightsbridge. The memorial is well signposted from paths across Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
Discover the fascinating range of historic sites which punctuated Queen Victoria's 64-year reign.