London SW7 2AP
Back in the late fifties, Spike Milligan likened the Albert Memorial to a moon-rocket lauch-pad in an epidode of the Goons, a favourite with Prince Charles, whose great-great-great grandfather was none other than the man commemorated in Kensington Gardens.
The Prince Consort died of typhoid in 1861 when he was only 42 years old, and Queen Victoria, devastated by his untimely death, wanted to immortalise him in a very grand manner. The result, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the high-Gothic Revival style, with knobs on, is a flamboyant example of Victorian uber-kitsch, with jingoistic and patriotic overtones all around.
At each corner, there are groups of marble figures representing the four corners of the globe, featuring a bull for Europe, a camel for Africa, an elephant for Asia, and a buffalo for the Americas. Nothing for Australasia, then. Higher up on the 54m. high structure there are more figures representing manufacture, commerce, engineering and agriculture, and still further up, near the top, are gilded bronze statues of angels and the virtues.
All around the base the Parnassus frieze depicts 187 carved figures of painters, sculptors, musicians, architects and poets, such was Albert‘s interest in the arts. The whole monument was inspired by 13th century Eleanor Crosses, the one outside Charing Cross station being the most famous, and the ornate canopy over the statue of Albert is called a ciborium - architects seem to have a word for everything.
A hundred and twenty years after the monument was constructed, it‘s age was beginning to show, and a re-vamp was undertaken in the 1990‘s, culminating in the re-gilding of the figure of the Prince Consort, which English Heritage insists was the original finish, even though it had been painted black over a century ago. In spite of, or maybe because of, Albert‘s bling appearance, it remains one of London‘s most photographed edifices. One would have to travel to Cape Canavarel in Florida to see anything comparable.