In 1859 Sir George Gilbert Scott had further contact with the Prince Albert over the design of a memorial to the Duchess of Gloucester in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.
The Duchess of Gloucester was the last survivor of George III’s fifteen children and died in 1857. She was buried in her family vault below the chapel but the Queen then decided to erect a cenotaph in the south choir aisle to commemorate ‘her beloved aunt’ and commissioned Scott to carry out the work in 1859. It is a tomb-chest of different coloured marbles, with an inlaid brass cross on the top, but it also has four white marble sculptured panels above and behind the tomb. These are said to have been designed by the Queen and carried out by William Theed. Theed had carried out a considerable amount of work for the Royal Family and when the monument was completed, in October 1860, he was granted permission by Prince Albert to inscribe the names of Scott and himself on the memorial.
The Queen’s devastation at Albert’s untimely death on 14 December 1861 did not prevent her from taking a number of decisions almost as soon as he had taken his last breath which would influence the whole pattern of memorials to ‘that Great and Good Prince’, as Scott calls him. The Queen’s predecessors, except William IV, are buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, but as Victoria was always anxious to disassociate herself from her somewhat disreputable Hanoverian ancestors, she and Albert had decided to follow a tendency of his family, the Saxe-Coburgs, and build a mausoleum.
The Prince’s coffin lay in St. George’s Chapel for nearly one year and on 27 December 1862 it was moved to a new mausoleum in the grounds of Frogmore House in Windsor Home Park. The Dean of Windsor, Gerald Valerian Wellesley, had been upset that the Queen and Prince Albert had turned away from St. George’s, the traditional burial place, and had proposed that the Prince should be laid to rest in a separate building to the east of the chapel, then known as the Wolsey Chapel. The Queen objected to Wellesley’s proposal: it was not what she and Albert had planned. But the Dean and Canons nevertheless still wanted to provide a memorial to the Prince inside the chapel.
One of the Canons, Charles Leslie Courtenay, declared that the east window was an ‘eye-sore in England’s most beautiful Gothic chapel’ and proposed that the whole of the east end including the altar in front of which the Prince’s coffin was temporarily resting, should be re-designed to incorporate a new window as the chapel’s memorial to the Prince. Early in 1862, Scott was commissioned to carry out the work and drawings of the windows and reredos were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1862. There was considerable pressure to proceed as quickly as possible as the Queen was anxious that her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, should marry soon. He and Princess Alexandra of Denmark were married in St. George’s Chapel on 10 March 1863. This took place in front of Scott’s new window and a new reredos carved by Philip who employed between sixty and seventy men to get the work finished on time at a cost of £1500. Scott had intended that the alabaster rererdos should have ornate canopy work and sculptured figures across the entire width of the choir, but at the time of the wedding only the central portion had been completed. In fact the whole restoration took seven years to complete. All the canopy work was carried out, but in 1869 Courtenay decided that the intended white marble ‘sculptures’ beside the reredos ‘will be a blot’, so Scott promptly substituted four small square panels in their place.
With the reconstruction the large east window, Scott again showed his knowledge and skill in handling the Perpendicular style. He reinstated twenty angels missing from the surrounding arch and designed the tracery so that it had fifty-two rectangular lights where figures in stained glass appropriate to the character of Prince Albert could be displayed. Courtenay seems to have been largely responsible for the iconographic programme of the window which includes, at its base, fourteen incidents in the life of the Prince. It was made by Clayton and Bell at a cost of £1500.
In 1874 Queen Victoria decided to place a memorial to her father, the Duke of Kent, who had been dead for fifty-four years in the south aisle of St. George’s Chapel. The Duke is buried beneath the chapel and the Queen commissioned Scott to design a table tomb surmounted by a figure of the Duke, which was carried out in alabaster by Sir Edwin Boehm. The monument was originally placed in front of the south-west corner chapel of St. George’s, but a few years later it was moved, and in 1953 it was placed in its present position in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore. The Duke of Kent’s cenotaph was Scott’s last work for the Royal Family at Windsor but before the Albert Memorial Chapel was finished, he had carried out further work for the Dean and Canons at the west end of St. George’s. In 1869 he embarked on a restoration of the west front, which included new aisle windows and the provision of a grand new flight of steps up to the west door at a cost of £469. But surrounding this stately composition was a shabby semi-circle of old plaster-covered buildings known as the Horseshoe Cloister which, in 1867, the Dean and Canons had intended to demolish and replace with a new building designed by Salvin. On Scott’s ‘insistence some of the plaster was removed from the walls and it was discovered that the buildings were half timber with herringbone brickwork’. Scott drew up a scheme to restore the cloister which was approved in February 1870, with a cost of £9000, including a new parapet for £416, and Salvin had lost yet another commission to Scott. The work was completed in 1874, one year before the Albert Memorial Chapel and two years before Scott’s more famous Albert Memorial, in Kensington Gardens, was finally unveiled.
Albert Memorial Chapel, Windsor Castle
Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria the Crown Princess of Prussia and the future Empress of Germany, often helped her mother with artistic matters. Perhaps thinking about Wellesley’s rejected proposal, early in February 1862 suggested to her mother that the Wolsey Chapel, immediately to the east of St. George’s Chapel, could provide the public with a place of pilgrimage in memory of her father. The Queen was enthusiastic about this idea and immediately ordered Scott to carry out the work. Scott was ‘much struck and delighted’ by the Crown Princess’s idea of converting the empty shell of the Wolsey Chapel into a public memorial for Prince Albert. It must have seemed an excellent opportunity to exercise those skills of restoration and refurbishment which over so many years he had practised so that he now had considerable confidence in his ability to produce a beautiful result. Only this time, the work was for the most prestigious of clients. However, he warned the Queen that the work would be very expensive and she approached Parliament for a grant of £15,000 spread over two years. The Government then raised problems so in May 1862 she decide to pay for the work herself. Scott must have been relieved that he was now dealing directly with the Royal Family and free from the interference of politicians.
Scott formed a new doorway in the west wall of the chapel, removed the south porch and proceeded to remove the existing plaster vaulting with the intention of replacing it in stone. But on doing this the roof structure was found to be so rotten that it had to be secured by a system of metal shoes and iron ties which, with the increased load of the stone vaulting, meant that the whole of the old structure had to be strengthened. This was the first of many unforeseen delays and additional costs which beset this project but the worst aspect of the work for Scott must have been that it involved him in a series of minor disagreements with the Royal Family.
Scott had intended that the spaces between the new vaulting ribs in the chapel should be painted with angels and heraldic devices but the Crown Princess suggested that a process of making marble pictures, developed by the French sculptor Baron Henri de Triqueti, could be used instead. This was on show at the International exhibition at South Kensington, which the Duke of Cambridge had opened on 1 May 1862, with the Crown Princess and her husband in attendance. In the past Prince Albert had admired Triqueti’s sculpture and was interested in this process of making pictures involving the use of different coloured marble slabs to form the main areas of colour with their edges and the detail delineated in mastic. However Scott said that flat marble slabs would not be suitable for the curved surfaces of the vaulting and suggested that mosaic by Salviati, whose work was also on show at the exhibition, should be used instead.
Scott was clearly anxious to make the chapel as splendid as possible and wrote to Wellesley on 12 September 1862 saying that although mosaic would cost twice as much as the painting that he had originally proposed, he now felt that it was justified because of ‘the magnificent effect it would give to the Chapel’. As was to happen with the Albert Memorial, the designs were made by Clayton and Bell and then sent to Salviati who made the mosaics in his workshop in Venice. They were installed by June 1864 with Clayton and Bell painting and gilding the ribs between the panels and making the stained glass windows.
When it came to the walls of the chapel, Scott wrote in his Recollections in July 1872 that:
It was my intention that the walls below the windows should be covered with frescoes … but this was changed at the suggestion of H R H The Princess of Prussia to subjects in marble inlay by Baron Triqueti. This work has been a source of deep disappointment to me as it will I fear be to all lovers of art. The Barons work is not in my opinion worthy of his fame or of the object and I have had to suffer through him & his friends a good deal of vexation, more perhaps through the injudicious ardour of his friends than from any intention of his own. I have no doubt that my traducers will when the time comes be delighted with this opportunity of vilifying me for matters wholly beyond my control.
Triqueti submitted his proposal in May 1864. This consisted of eleven large and four smaller marble pictures separated by sculptured panels and he estimated that the work would take seven to eight years to complete. The work was actually carried out by a former pupil, Jules Destreez, while his favourite ex-pupil, Susan Durant, carved portrait medallions of members of the Royal Family to go above each of the marble pictures. Triqueti upset Scott by disregarding his drawings for the mosaic frames to the pictures and substituting his own foliage designs which were ‘by no means to my taste’. When he also ignored Scott’s designs for the marble benches below the pictures, Scott complained that Triqueti’s ‘knowledge of Gothic architecture is very limited’ and he should not be allowed to interfere with his design for the reredos. Thanks to the intervention of Wellesley, he was able to retain his design for the surround to the reredos although the reredos itself was carved by Triqueti. Scott felt that his artistic control of the work was slipping away.
This was not at all what Scott had anticipated when he eagerly responded to the Queen’s command to restore the Wolsey Chapel. But by 1868 the news of his increasing complaints against Triqueti must have reached the Queen. Susan Durant wrote to a friend that:
I must keep for your private ear what H.M. said of Mr. Scott, & how she trusted the direction of Mr. de Triqueti’s part of the work would not be interfered in … by H.M.’s special command, Mr. de T. is to meet Scott at the Deanery where he will be communicated the royal wish that the architect will adapt himself to the requirements of the artists!
The last thing that Scott wanted was to incur the displeasure of the Queen but he was faced with some formidable allegiances and friendships. Susan Durant was a friend of the Royal Family, particularly the Crown Princess, and in September 1865 she went to Berlin to model the Princess’s medallion for the chapel. While there she gave the Princess lessons in modelling and they even considered setting up a joint studio. It is not surprising that when the Queen went to the chapel with Durant in inspect Triqueti’s marble pictures she became enthusiastic about their beauty.
The centrepiece of the restored chapel was to be a cenotaph to Prince Albert. Scott had been instructed that this would be in the form of a medieval tomb chest surmounted by a recumbent figure of the Prince in the robes of the Order of the Garter. Around the pedestal would be small niches containing figures representing members of the Prince’s family. However in December 1865 the sculpture was entrusted to Triqueti and the design was altered to such an extent that it now bears little resemblance to Scott’s usual dignified memorials. The Crown Princess told Triqueti that her peace-loving father should be clad in medieval armour and the original robes of the Order of the Garter and he suggested that in place of the members of the family there should be angels on the four corners lifting the Prince heavenwards. This was clearly not an acceptable idea but a compromise was found with the angels still on the corners, but with allegorical figures in the niches on the sides, while at the head is an exquisite statuette of the Queen in prayer. Although Triqueti’s carving is of a very high standard, the monument is spoilt by over-ornateness and the close juxtaposition of different scale figures.
Work on the monument was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 when Triqueti found his client, the Crown Princess, on the opposite side to him and his French and German assistants left his studio to fight each other in their respective armies. Work was resumed in 1871 and Triqueti was working on a pair of angels intended for the sides of the west door when he died in May 1874. The chapel was finally opened to visitors on 1 December 1875 when it was renamed the Albert Memorial Chapel. The Morning Post, on the following day, described the chapel as a ‘veritable treasure-house of gilding, marble, mosaics, precious stones, and coloured glass’, but Scott was disappointed. Triqueti’s large and hard pictures completely detracted from the solemn and dignified atmosphere which he had tried to evoke. Today the effect of the chapel has entirely changed from what either Scott or Triqueti had intended as Queen Victoria allowed two great tombs to fill the spaces alongside Albert’s memorial. These were to commemorate her youngest son, the Duke of Albany, who died in 1884 and her grandson, the Duke of Clarence, who died in 1892. His tomb is a huge affair which completely overpowers Albert’s more modest structure.
Darby, E., and Smith, N., The Cult of the Prince Consort (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1983), pp. 30-5, 39-40, 110 n. 85, 87 and 116.
Scott’s Recollections, III 237-9.
Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 (The Abbey Library, London, 1964), p. 135.
Information from Dr Eileen Scarff, former archivist, Windsor Castle.
Bond, S. M. (ed.), The Monuments of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (Oxley and Son Ltd, Windsor, 1958), pp. 232-3.
Bond, S. M. (ed.), The Monuments of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (Oxley and Son Ltd, Windsor, 1958), pp. 67-8, 137-8.
Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 (The Abbey Library, London, 1964), p. 386.
Scott’s Sketchbook, p. 23.
Darby, E., and Smith, N., The Cult of the Prince Consort (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1983), pp. 2, 28, 30.
Coldwells, A., ‘The East Window, St. George’s Chapel’, in Annual Report of the Friends of St. George’s Chapel (1991-2), pp. 67, 103-4, 109.
‘Notebook’, in Chapter Records, XVII 9.4, 1862-1953.
Read, B., Victorian Sculpture (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1984), p. 335.
Burch, M., and Bond, M., Society of Friends Report, 1981-2, p. 100.
Cuthbert, E., ‘Restoration of the Horseshoe Cloister’ in Report, 1987-8, pp. 391, 400.
Cloisters and New Chapter Room, Windsor Castle