Saturday, September 17, 2005

Prince Albert (1819 - 1861)

Albert's role as advisor to Queen Victoria his wife came into full force after the death of Lord Melbourne, Whig Prime Minister who had exerted a strong paternal influence over his monarch. But Albert never really enjoyed great popularity during Victoria's reign, and it wasn't until 1857, when he was 38 years old, that he was recognised by the nation and awarded the title Prince Consort.
Born at Schloss Rosenau, he was the younger son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He was educated at Bonn and married Victoria his first cousin in 1840. Albert encouraged in his wife a greater awareness of social ills and without Melbourne's protective influence he was able to air his concerns. He took an active role in bringing about reform and invited Lord Shaftesbury, the driving force behind successive factory acts, to Buckingham Palace to discuss the matter of child labour. This meeting marked the beginning of Victoria's increased involvement in social welfare.
It was Albert who masterminded the Great Exhibition of 1851, with a view to celebrating the great advances of the British Industrial Age and the expansion of the empire. Using the profits from this event he commissioned the building of the Royal Albert Hall and established the museum sites in Kensington.
Victoria was extremely proud of Albert and they were always seen together in public. She refused to undertake any enterprise without his involvement. When, in 1861, he died of typhoid she was overwhelmed by grief and remained in mourning until the end of her days. Testimony to her love is the memorial in Kensington Gardens, designed by Sir George Scott and erected in 1871.


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