The Prince Albert Memorial was designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1863-72 .
Uncanny in its fantasy, almost the first thing one needs to ask if they are not to be carried off into bemusement by this glorious thing is what on Earth is it? Essentially, it’s a ciborium, and Scott must have known the late thirteenth-century examples by Arnolfo di Cambio in Roman basilicias, such as S. Paolo fuori le Mura. Usually Scott was averse to Italian Gothic, but most of the motifs used were those common to his cherished English Geometric.
A cast-bronze statue of the late Prince Consort sits on a plinth upon a larger pedestal, which also has marble figure groups of the four continents and a frieze of great artists. Above him are raised four huge cusped trefoil arches upon clustered piers, which are crowned by huge crocked gables with mosaics within, and pinnacles over the angles. From the centre rises a massive spire, containing a smaller gabled niche with gilt bronze statues of the Christian Virtues. Through two more tiers of plinths with bronze angels, the spire is finally topped with a cross.
Perhaps above all what makes this monument so beguiling is the very Victorian use of polychromy. A huge amount of effort was put into finding the materials: the lower parts are of granite, brought from Scotland and Ireland, polished for the columns so it appears like marble. Portland Stone substituted for marble in the superstructure, although much has been polychromed. Darley Dale sandstone from Derbyshire was used for the main capitals. Brick and iron were used extensively in the structure, but all was disguised. Scott’s adherence to Pugin’s True Principles could only go so far when the client was the Queen of Britain and Ireland, Empress of India.
The Albert Memorial as described by Ian Toplis
Prince Albertís death, on 14 December 1861, shocked the nation and devastated the Queen but it provided Scott with the greatest opportunity of his life. Apart from their meeting over the Architectural Museum in 1855, Scott says little about Prince Albert in his
Recollections. He probably first met him as a young man of twenty-one when the Prince laid the foundation stone of the Wanstead Asylum on 24 July 1841 and also in the spring of 1858, as he later told the committee on the Albert Memorial that he had had ëthe honour of laying before his Royal Highness my first designs for the new government officesí. In the following year, he had further contact with the Prince over the design of a memorial to the Duchess of Gloucester in St. Georgeís Chapel, Windsor. After meeting him in Chichester on 6 March 1861, Scott met the Prince again on 12 July, when, between bouts of illness, he laid the foundation stone of Scottís chapel at Wellington College. The Princeís increasingly poor health did not prevent him from being dragged into an argument between the Headmaster and the Governors over the size of the school chapel. On 4 November 1861 the Prince inspected the work in progress and agreed to support the Headís contention that the chapel was too small even though Myerís was well advanced with the construction. It is typical of Scottís nature that although he would go to any lengths to resist the ideas of the bullying Palmerston, when it came to the gentle Prince, he immediately bowed to his ideas, however inconvenient and ill-considered, and amended his drawings. But the alterations had not been agreed by the Governors and it was probably at their meeting at the House of Lords on 11 November that Scott last saw the Prince. A heated argument had developed over what form the extension should take when the ailing Prince quietly suggested a compromise. This was to add just one bay to the chapel, to which proposal all the Governors were in immediate agreement, and the building was built with an additional bay to that shown on Scottís drawings.
The Albert Memorial Competition
On 14 January 1862, just over two weeks after Prince Albertís funeral, a meeting was held at the Mansion House to set up a committee to consider a lasting monument to the Prince. The Queen was consulted and replied that ëan obelisk, to be erected in Hyde Park on the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851, or on some spot immediately contiguous to ití would have her approval, particularly as Albert had approved the idea of a memorial to the exhibition on that site.
Henry Cole was made a member of the Mansion House committee and his vision of South Kensington as a great centre of the arts and sciences would be given a considerable boost by the incorporation of the national monument to the Prince, giving the whole area the status of a living memorial to his aspiration and achievements. Lord Derby called Cole ëthe most generally, unpopular man I knowí and the Queen later described him as ëgood Mr. Cole, with his rough off-hand mannerí. So rough infact that he succeeded in upsetting everybody who was not a member of his select circle in South Kensington.
Very soon after the Mansion House meeting, the Queen requested that another committee should be set up to advise her which included Sir Charles Eastlake, the President of the Royal Academy. It soon became clear that the Queenís first idea of an obelisk was impracticable: a suitable sized monolith could not be found in any quarry. But the Queen had had second thoughts anyway and ëfelt relievedí that her idea had to be abandoned. Various alternative ideas were put forward, particularly from sculptors, but the hands of Cole can be detected in a proposal to combine a ëwork of utilityí, in other words a hall, with the memorial. By this time the great rectangle of the Commissionerís estate, between Exhibition Road and what is now Queenís Gate, was being developed as gardens for the Royal Horticultural Society and, in March 1861, work started at the southern end of the estate on the enormous structure that was to house the 1862 International Exhibition. Captain Fowke had designed the building to be symmetrical on the centre line of the estate and it was a continuation northwards of this line to the spot in Hyde Park, where it crosses the east-west axis of the site of the Crystal Palace, that it was decided to site the Albert Memorial.
An important decision was made by the Queenís advisory committee in May 1862, when it decided to obtain the advice of a panel of seven architects over the design of the memorial. This made its provision an architectural problem rather than the concern of sculptors, which it had been up until then, and would place the sculptors in the position of craftsmen nominated by the architect or client to carry out their work. This would not have pleased Cole with his dislike of architects. Eastlake approached the Institute of British Architects to draw up a list of architects to form the panel. Tite, who was president at the time, was naturally included, as was Scott, who was vice-president and knew Eastlake through the Royal Academy. The other members were Donaldson, Digby Wyatt, P. C. Hardwick, Pennethorne and Sydney Smirke.
Although this was Scottís first official involvement with the Albert Memorial, he had for his ëown personal satisfaction and pleasure’, at the time when the obelisk was being considered, ëendeavoured to render that idea consistent with that of a Christian monumentí. He thought he would cap the obelisk with ëa large and magnificent Crossí, like an Iona cross, but with the cap in metal. By the time the panel of architects was set up, Scottís work at Windsor was well underway and he seems hesitant in becoming involved with another memorial, however grand, particularly as his fellow architects were predominantly classicists. In a letter to Eastlake, with the Foreign Office affair still raw, he said that he was concerned at being included with some individuals who ëhave taken an active part in defeating my wishes as to the style of the only public building in which I have been engaged in Londoní, and he knew that anything at South Kensington would involve Cole. He told Eastlake that he would be unable to attend the first meeting of the architectsí panel as he would be in Paris. This was when he went there with Dr Chadwick to examine pavilion hospitals. He was now successfully producing buildings in his own secular Gothic style and desperately wanted to avoid becoming involved in another bitter stylistic battle. Tite presided at the architects meeting and, on 5 June 1862, they sent a report to Eastlake, which Scott tamely signed ëpro formaí, although he was not present. They stated that the memorial should be a group of statuary of either bronze or marble, in which case it should be covered, and recommended that a ënoble hallí should be built to the south of the memorial.
In the following month the Queenís advisory committee decided that each of the architects on the panel should produce a design for the memorial and receive one hundred pounds for their work. Tite and Smirke declined to participate and their withdrawal might have helped Scott had not their replacements been his old rival Charles Barry junior and his younger brother, Edward Middleton Barry. The architectural profession, probably in the wake of the Government Offices fiasco, were adverse to a formal competition, but this was what this was in all but name with the Queen as the only judge. Scott seems to have been irritated that the architects did not discuss his Gothic Cross idea at their first meeting, but with his usual energy he threw himself into the task of producing a more acceptable design.
In Scottís sketch book, which also contains sketches of continental hospitals and his preliminary design for the Leeds Infirmary, there is a sketch of a round-arch structure, supported by thick cluster columns, covering a seated figure. This sketch is followed by another of a more elegant design, with pointed arches, very similar to the final design. The architects had to produce their designs, bearing in mind a cost limit of £60,000, by 1 December 1862. Eventually all seven architects sent in designs, including three from Digby Wyatt who submitted an ëItalian Gothic Crossí, a sculptural design and a classical temple. The others, with the exception of Scott, were envitably classical schemes. Donaldson produced fourteen drawings including a spectacular perspective three feet long. Pennethorne hid the Prince inside a massive mausoleum-like structure with Greek embellishments, while Charles Barry proposed that he should stand inside a sumptuously decorated Italianate building with open sides. Hardwick suggested that the Prince should stand in the open on a high plinth surrounded by steps and fountains and cut off from the park by a high screen wall. Various unsolicited designs were sent in but it appears that none of these were considered. These included schemes from James Fergusson and the sculptor Joseph Durham. But by far the most exciting extant design is a proposal for a massive monument by Alexander Thomson of Glasgow. Nicknamed ëGreek Thomsoní for his idiosyncratic treatment of Greek classical architecture, his Albert Memorial was on of his most spectacular designs in this style.
All the invited architects accompanied their designs with written explanations to the Queenís advisory committee. Scott introduced his explanation by saying that:
I have not hesitated to adopt in my design the style at once the most congenial with my own feelings, and that of the most touching monuments ever erected in this country to a Royal Consort ñ the exquisite ëEleanor Crossesí. But as the written explanations were published well before the design was illustrated, this confused everyone. It was assumed by many that the author of the Martyrsí Memorial was producing another Eleanor Cross for Albert. This led to an argument in the press as to the suitability of an Eleanor Cross for the Memorial, which was not at all what Scott had intended.
Scott was, in fact, a victim of his own verbosity, as further on in the text he gives an accurate account of his intentions which:
May be described as a colossal statue of the Prince placed beneath a vast and magnificent shrine or tabernacle, and surrounded by works of sculpture illustrating those arts and sciences which he fostered, and the great undertakings which he had originated. He particularly emphasised his idea that the precious character of the Prince could be expressed by the richness of his shrine and he would:
Erect a kind of Ciborium to protect [the] statue of the Prince & its special characteristic was that the Ciborium was designed in some degree on the principles of ancient shrines. These shrines were models of imaginary buildings such as had never in reality been erected My idea was to realize one of these imaginary structures, with its precious materials its inlaying its enamels etc., etc. After it had been pointed out to him that there was a strong resemblance between his design and some of the very real structures over the altars of Early Christian basilicas he claimed that:
I do not recollect that this idea consciously resulted from the ciboria which canopy the Altars of Basilicas, though the form is the same but it came to me rather in the abstract as the form suited to the object Ö Scott should have remembered his visit to Verona in the autumn of 1851 where he would have seen the tombs of the Scaligers in the centre of the city, one of which bears a close resemblance to his design. He must also have seen Puginís
The Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume, published in 1846, where Pugin provides an illustration of an imaginary altar covered by a ciborium which bears an even closer resemblance to the Albert Memorial. In reality canopied monuments were already well known in Britain, the most famous example being the monument to Sir Walter Scott in Princes Street Edinburgh, which was designed by George Meikle Kemp and built between 1840 and 1846. Scott would have seen the Edinburgh monument on one of his trips to Scotland but he is unlikely to have seen the designs for another canopied monument which Thomas Worthington designed as Manchesterís memorial to the Prince. Very soon after the Princeís death Worthington produced his design, which the Queen approved, saying that nothing more beautiful or appropriate could be imagined. It was erected between 1863 and 1867 and became the centre-piece on the newly formed and appropriately named Albert Square.
Both the Edinburgh and Manchester monuments are in the Gothic style. But Scott knew that all his fellow competitors would be producing designs in the classical style and he consequently goes to some length in his written explanation to tell the committee that he had found the Prince sympathetic towards the Gothic style. He says that when he first showed him the first designs for the Government Offices, in spring 1858, the Prince ëdistinctly told me that he did not sympathise with the objections which had been made against them of the ground of their style being Mediaevalí. The Prince also approved of him being especially commissioned to design a Gothic chapel for Wellington College. When he produced a Gothic design for the Guardsí Crimean Memorial in Hyde Park, he said that the Prince also approved that design as well, but it was not carried out.
What is special about Scottís proposed Albert Memorial was his intention to turn it into a gorgeously coloured and highly ornate structure by the use of precious materials and enamels. ëMy idea, whether good or bad, was to realize the Jewellers architecture in a structure of full size, and this has furnished the Key not of my design and its executioní. The intention was that it would be the same, except in size, as the ancient shrines, with:
The same beaten metal work ñ the same filigree the same plaques of enamel the same jewelling the same figure-work in metal & each with the very same mode of artistic treatment which we find in the shrines of the Three Kings at Cologne, of Notre Dame at Aix la Chapelle, of St Elizabeth at Marburg Ö But this application of rich decoration made Scottís proposals very expensive. He contended that the £60,000 allocated for both the hall and the memorial, in the summer of 1862, was insufficient and assumed that the funds would be concentrated on one or the other. He said that his memorial alone would cost at least £70,000. The advisory committee passed the designs to the Queen and, in February 1863, she viewed them at Windsor accompanied by Eastlake and her second daughter, Princess Alice, but she had to await the arrival of the Crown Princess from Prussia before a decision could be made. At first the Queen thought that there were only two appropriate designs and only one of these was realizable. One was Hardwickís, which could enable both the hall and the memorial to be provided within the available funds. The other design was Scottís. In spite of being the only architect out of the seven competitors who believed that a Gothic scheme would be appropriate, Scott, for several reasons, had the edge over his rivals. He was already working for the Queen on the Wolsey Chapel so she knew him and presumably approved of his work. He had had a number of contacts with Albert so he knew something of Albertís character, which the Queen would have liked. And although Albert favoured classical architecture Scott was able to show that he was not dogmatic and on various occasions he found Gothic acceptable.
It was the arrival of the Crown Princess to attend the wedding of her brother in March 1863, which seemed to help the Queen decide upon Scottís design. With her interest in art and design, the Princess was well aware of Reichenspergerís campaign to make Gothic the national architecture of a united Germany and as the culmination of this campaign, the great Gothic nave of Cologne Cathedral had just been completed after six hundred years. As the Queen had already expressed her delight with Worthingtonís Manchester memorial, she could hardly not approve Scottís similarly canopied structure. But it was the bejewelled effect which made Scottís design different and he knew that the notion of an almost sacred casket, protecting the figure of her precious loved-one, would give his design an almost irresistible appeal to the Queen. Scottís critics in the Cole circle were quick to point out that even the bejewelled aspect of Scottís design was not original. Redgrave and Fowke remarked how the shrine at Or San Michele in Florence resembled Scottís design. Scott had seen this in 1851 and his critics should have looked at Scottís own
Remarks, where he says:
I cannot mention this building without noticing the wonderful ciborium, altar, and altar enclosure it contains: one of the most splendid works of its kind in existence, decorated with sculpture, inlaid marble, coloured glass, and almost every kind of enrichment. In February 1863, Scott had the cost of his design properly worked out and discovered that it would come to at least £110,000, or £50,000 more than the funds available. The Queen had been indignant when, in the previous May, Palmerston had suggested to Parliament that a vote of only £20,000 would be sufficient. With Scottís design as her favourite, she now asked Parliament for the extra £50,000. Lord Derby, in his capacity as the Leader of the Opposition, backed the vote and, after the design was exhibited in the House of Commons, the vote was approved in April 1863. Palmerston and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gladstone, remained opposed to any increase over £30,000. The other architects heard about the Queenís choice by reading a leak in
The Times on 28 March 1863, much to the annoyance of her advisory committee as the wording of its report was still being finalised. It was not formally submitted to the Queen until 21 April 1863 and Scott was duly appointed to carry out the work the following day.
The Building of the Albert Memorial
In the competition Scott had made three alternative designs for the hall to the south of the memorial. As far as Cole was concerned, this was the most important part of the Albert Memorial project. However, Scottís lavish structure would swallow all the funds leaving nothing for the hall unless the Government could be persuaded to step in. After the architectural Museum fiasco, Cole probably regarded Scott as a financial incompetent whose inability to control his spending had now deprived him of his hall. He thought of Scott as nervous and unsure and susceptible to his suggestions, as he had been over the museum. But Scott had now learnt from these mistakes and treated Cole with caution.
When the two men sat together in the gallery of the House of Commons to hear Parliament vote the additional £50,000, Cole told Scott that he thought that the shrine should be enclosed to protect it from the atmosphere. This would have spoilt Scottís whole idea of a conspicuous shrine but Scott said nothing, which led Cole to believe that Scott was seriously considering the idea. He completely misunderstood Scottís quiet doggedness and grim determination to achieve his objectives. At the same time, Cole, with characteristic energy, embarked on a campaign to discredit Scottís design. He prepared an elaborate publication for private circulation which showed that in medieval times, the only open-sided structures were either common market crosses or preaching crosses, while all known open shrines were within buildings.
In May 1863 Cole wrote to Sir Charles Phipps, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, suggesting that the Queen should set up a committee to solve the questions that he himself had just raised. Scott, however, was ready for Coleís move and wrote a reply to Phipps who circulated it alongside Coleís publication thus neutralising the effect of Coleís attack. Phipps had found Scottís arguments to be a convincing rebuttal of Coleís onslaught and remarked that Scott ëseems to have the greatest dread of Coleí. He was obviously sympathetic towards Scott while Coleís attitude was rapidly loosing him favour in Royal circles. He was meddling in an affair in which the Queen had already made up her mind and, on 11 May 1863, Phipps told Cole that the Queen had expressed wishes that all further discussions of matters of taste were redundant. He then ratified Scottís position by assuring him of the Queenís confidence in him and that she would appoint an executive committee to communicate her orders. ëThe Queen will direct the Members to leave to you full control over the works, within the limits of the available fundsí.
Parliament had voted the additional £50,000 and it was decided that John Kelk would be the builder. He had amassed a fortune largely from railway work, but with the chance to enhance his public image with the Albert Memorial, he decided to postpone his retirement. Immediately after the Parliamentary vote, on Coleís suggestion, he offered to build the Memorial at cost price and to bear any excess over the estimate of £85,508 himself. Scottís justified dislike of Cole extended to Kelk but for no good reason other than he was a friend and employee of Cole. Kelk had built a house at Witley in Surrey for Cole in 1861 and Scott assumed that he was in Coleís pocket. But there had been no problems with the foundation contracts for the Foreign and India Offices and, in fact, Kelk carried out the Albert Memorial for £1,077 less than his estimate and paid for a wide flight of steps leading down to the carriage road out of his own pocket. Inspite of all this munificence, Kelk was still disappointed when it came to official recognition. It was not until 1874 that he was awarded a baronetcy for political services to the Conservative party.
John Drayton Wyatt made a perspective drawing of Scottís proposed Albert Memorial and it was published in
The Builder on 23 May 1863, nearly one year after it had been designed. This was the first view that the general public had of the intended memorial and it shows a structure remarkably similar to that actually built. The main difference is that the centre fleche is lower and the corner columns thinner. Scott says that George Gilbert junior and John Clayton made the first elevational drawings of the memorial showing the sculpture ëin a general wayí. He concedes that the corner columns ëdid look too slight in the first drawing which I was probably first to perceive and corrected with great careí. However, he felt that the fleche, as built, ëis too highí.
In July 1863, a great model was started so that the Queen was better able ëto appreciate the effect of the memorial and to consider its detailí. This is a huge plaster affair, nearly seven feet tall, which Scott says was ëprepared under my directioní and made by ëMr. Brindley but the sculpture was by Mr. Armsteadí. Scott had first noticed Henry Hugh Armstead at the 1862 Exhibition ëthrough his beautiful figure subjects on the Outram Shieldí and he was to become, with Philip, one of Scottís favourite sculptors. The great model was painted and polished to represent the brightly coloured materials to be used and, in March 1864, it was placed on a large pedestal in Buckingham Palace where it ëproved extremely valuableí during discussions over further possible modifications. In fact, only in small details of the sculpture and in the inscription does the model vary from the finished structure. In 1867, it was displayed at the Paris Exhibition and on its return it was bought from Scott by Coleís South Kensington Museum, where it still is.
The working drawings for the Albert Memorial were made in Scottís office after November 1863 by John Oldrid and Richard Coad. On 6 April 1864, the Royal Sign Manual Warrant was obtained granting the Queenís permission for the memorial to be erected in Hyde Park. Kelk appointed William Cross as his Director of Works and Coad became Scottís Clerk of Works. Kelk started work in May 1864 by excavating its massive foundations. As with the Foreign and India Offices, he provided a great raft of concrete, seventeen feet thick. On top of this he laid stone landings and on these he built a great substructure of brickwork, which Scott describes as ëa curious, intricate, and picturesque series of catacombsí, to support the memorial and its surround of granite steps. Problems arose from the supply of granite, but once it had arrived on site, Scott is fulsome in his praise of the way that Kelk handled it.
The whole of the granite was worked on the spot, admirable machinery having been erected by Mr. Kelk for the various processes of polishing; and it is probably that, while some parts of the work are such as have never in our time been worked in polished granite, no other work in that material has surpassed Ö Kelk used travelling gantries, as were being used on the Foreign Office, to move the huge blocks of masonry around the site. At the top of the four arches of the canopy, Scott laid a great iron cruciform box-girder to transfer the weight of the fleche across to the corner columns. The girder is over three feet in depth and was designed by Scottís friend Francis Shields. The fleche and the canopy roofs were constructed entirely of metal by Skidmore. Vaulting under the canopy and the gables over the arches is in perforated brickwork, to give a secure key for the applied mosaic work and, also incidentally, to decrease the loading on the structure. In increasing the scale of a small object, like a tomb, into a large structure, meant that Scott had to sacrifice structural truthfulness in design: the arches are not structural arches as in medieval work, while the fleche could only be supported by the hidden iron girder.
Inspite of initial misgivings, Scott found Kelkís work to have been exemplary and noted that the memorial had been built ëwithout the slightest accident of any kindí. Scott was responsible for specifying materials and for nominating specialists and craftsmen. He exercised this control to such an extent that the decorative part of the memorial is largely the work of his favourite craftsmen such as Skidmore, Clayton and Bell, and Farmer and Brindley, who did the general carving. However, when it came to the sculpture, Scott had considerable problems. He was allowed to nominate only three of the sculptors, Armstead, Philip and Redfern, while the other eight were chosen by the Queen through the executive committee. The Princeís statue was commissioned directly by the Queen herself.
In March 1864 the queen unofficially confirmed that her choice of sculptor for the Princeís figure would be Baron Carlo Marochetti, a ëFrench-bred native of Turin residing in Onslow Squareí, less that a mile from the memorial. He first came to the notice of Prince Albert in 1848 when he exhibited at the Royal Academy and, in 1851, he became known to the general public when his dramatic equestrian statue of ëRichard Coeur de Lioní brandishing a sword, was placed outside the western end of the Crystal Palace. This, his best work, was moved to the front of the Houses of Parliament in 1860, where it still stands. The Queen and Prince Albert shared a very high opinion of Marochetti and immediately after the Princeís death, she commissioned him to make an effigy of the Prince and herself for the mausoleum at Frogmore. The Queen was to live for another forty years after he husband and at the time of her death, it was only by chance that the effigy was discovered, walled up in the stores at Windsor, where it was duly installed next to that of her late husband.
Marochetti inspected the model of the Albert Memorial and although, apparently, he was not happy about the idea of a seated figure, he nevertheless accepted the Queenís commission to carry out the work in July 1865. By the spring of 1867 he had completed a full-size model which gave Scott ëa severe shockí when he first saw it and this opinion remained when it was experimentally hoisted onto the pedestal of the half-finished memorial. The Queen then said that Marochetti should make alterations as he thought best, but encouraged by Cole, he suggested an equestrian figure. Scott was adamant that only a seated figure would provoke the appropriate sentiments and Marochetti was told that he must keep the seated figure. He then made a nude plaster figure of the Prince which he intended to place on the pedestal draped in sackcloth, but Scott still did not like it. After further efforts towards the end of 1867, when Scott was beginning to suspect Marochetti of not trying hard enough with the seated pose, the sculptor suddenly died.
Scott now wanted to start again but the Queen was not convinced that Marochettiís efforts should be abandoned. She went to Marochettiís studio, but ëalasí she told the Crown Princess, she would have to agree that a new sculptor should be appointed. Eastlake had been given responsibility for the sculpture of the Memorial by the executive committee, but he died in December 1865, before the sculpture had progressed very far. He was replaced by Austen Layard, who was regarded as something of an art expert with a particular interest in sculpture. In 1868, when he was made First Commissioner of Works, the
Saturday somewhat sweepingly declared him to be ëthe first expert who had ever been placed thereí and in the same year the Institute awarded him the Royal Gold Medal in Architecture.
After the death of Marochetti, Scott thought that there was only one artist whose ëartistic force and power Ö will command approval rather than tempt criticismí. This was the Irish sculptor John Henry Foley, whom Layard also supported as he thought that with his standing in his profession, he would be an uncontroversial choice. He was a notoriously slow worker but it was his fastidiousness and attention to detail which probably appealed to Scott and Layard. In May 1868, with the structure of the memorial almost complete, the Queen commissioned Foley to make the Princeís statue. Scottís office had been fearful that the work might have gone to Triquiti, as it was only a few weeks after the upset over the Wolsey Chapel, but the Queen seemed to have been anxious to avoid more controversy.
Immediately after he was appointed in 1868, Foley produced a series of sketch models of the statue and in December his proposals were approved by the Queen. By July 1870 he had made a full-size model, which was placed in the Memorial, and again received the Queenís approval with some detailed suggestions for improvement. According to Scott, it was while he was correcting his model at the site that Foley contracted ëthe long illnessí that eventually led to his death on 27 August 1874. The Princeís statue was still incomplete and although all the sculptural work was finished, bronze castings of various parts of the Prince littered his studio, ready to be welded together. Most of this work, along with six other statues which were incomplete at the time of his death, was carried out by his assistant since 1866, Thomas Brock. The Princeís statue was completed in October 1875 and placed in the Memorial in November. It was immediately covered in tarpaulins so that gilding could take place. Albert was finally revealed in all his glory in March 1876. In fact, the splendour of the occasion was somewhat diminished when glittering Albert showed how dingy the rest of the memorial had become after eight years in the atmosphere of Victorian London.
Even after three sculptors, the Princeís statue looks remarkably like the statue on Scottís first drawings. The pose has slightly altered and the chair is less conspicuous but he is still shown seated and leaning forwards, wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter. In his right hand he is holding one of the volumes of the catalogue of the Great Exhibition, while his left foot is on a footstool which is a device to avoid, what Scott calls, the statue looking ëall of a heapí when viewed from below.
The eight groups of statuary surrounding the memorial also bear a close resemblance to Scottís original drawings. Although they too were not part of Kelkís contract and therefore not directly under Scottís control, he was able to exercise considerable influence on their design. The sculptors were chosen by the Queen, through the committee, and paid by the committee. There are four large detached groups each representing a continent at the base of the steps, and four smaller groups, representing the ëIndustrial Artsí on the corners of the memorial itself. After some deliberation, in March 1864, the Queen decide that the sculptors for the continents would be Patrick Macdowell for ëEuropeí, Foley for ëAsiaí, Theed for ëAfricaí and John Bell for ëAmericaí. For the ëIndustrial Artsí they would be William Calder Marshall for ëAgricultureí, Henry Weekes for ëManufacturesí, Thomas Thornycroft for ëCommerceí and John Lawlor for ëEngineeringí. Theed, as Prince Albertís favourite sculptor, was an obvious choice but he had also expressed a high opinion of Thornycroft, while Weekes had provided the figures for Scottís Martyrsí Memorial some twenty-four years earlier. In July 1864 Scott met the four sculptors of the continents and persuaded them to follow Armsteadís models which incorporated his own idea that each continent should be represented by five figures and an animal.
By November 1864, all eight sketch-models were complete and ready to be submitted to the Queen. She and the committee visited all the artists studios and she arranged for photographs to be sent to the Crown Princess in Berlin as she found it difficult to decide what was best on matters of ëcorrect and severe art, as my beloved one did, in such a wonderful degreeí. Various minor modifications were made between February and March 1865 and the revised models were resubmitted to the Queen. Some of the alterations were carried out for diplomatic reasons, such as the removal of the magnolia, the symbol of the Confederate States, which Bell had incorporated into his piece during the American Civil War. Eventually the ëIndustrial Artsí were placed in position in the summer and autumn of 1870 and the continents installed between autumn 1870 and the summer of 1872.
Apart from the sculpture groups and the Princeís statue, Scott was able to employ his favourite artists for the rest of the decorative work. Philip and Armstead modelled eight figures for casting in bronze representing the ëGreater Sciencesí which were placed against the columns and on the corners of the canopy. On the fleche itself are eight, eight feet high statues by Redfern, cast by Skidmore, and higher up still around the base of the cross, are eight angels at two levels by Philip, again cast by Skidmore. The gables and spandrels of the canopy are filled with glass mosaics representing each of the professions of the figures shown in the portion of the podium frieze immediately below. Scott says that the mosaics ëwere not only designed but drawn out in full-size coloured cartoons by Mr Clayton & from them executed by Mr. Salviati at Veniceí. The centre of each gable has a seated allegorical figure holding the instruments of the profession that they represent, such as a lyre for the poets, and dividers and a drawing of the Albert Memorial for the architects.
William Brindley carried out the architectural carving which Scott thought was ëwell executedí and most of it was covered with gilding. The most interesting part of the memorial today is the podium which incorporates the so-called Parnassus Frieze. This frieze is nearly 200 feet long and encircles the whole of the base of the memorial showing 169 figures, mostly in high relief, of famous painters, architects, poets, musicians and sculptors, in the dress of their period. By March 1864, Scott had nominated Philip and Armstead to carry out the frieze. Armstead was to carve poets and musicians on the south side and painters on the east, while Philip would provide architects on the north side and sculptors on the west. Considerable research went into making the portraits appear as authentic as possible but this was almost an impossible task as most of the subjects had been dead for hundreds of years. It was decided that the frieze would be carved out of two feet thick slabs of Campenella marble, which Eastlake ordained should be carved after they had been built into the structure of the Memorial. To enable this to take place Kelk encircled the podium with top-lit studios to house the sculptors.
Work started on the frieze in the late summer of 1866 but proceeded slowly. Kelk, under whose contract Philip and Armstead were working as sub-contractors, urged them to employ more assistants to speed up the work. Armstead, perhaps more used to Scottís gentle approach, became terrified of Kelk and suffered fits of nervousness and unsteadiness on hand whenever it was announced that Kelk was about to appear. The work was eventually finished in the spring or summer of 1872. The names of everybody portrayed were inscribed on either the top or the bottom edge of the frieze, with in some cases, an appropriate architectural background carved in low-relief behind the figures. Philip decide that he would arrange the worthies of architecture and sculpture in chronological order, while Armstead grouped his men (there are no women) into national schools. Contemporaries such as Barry and Cockerell are shown in conversation, and while Scott is shown looking towards Pugin, perhaps admiringly, Pugin seems indifferent to Scott. Numerous discussions took place over the selection of appropriate worthies to be represented but in the end most of the decisions were left to Philip and Armstead. From the outset, Philip had wanted to include Scott, but Scott thought that this might provoke criticism and substituted Pugin in his place. However, the Queen insisted on Scottís inclusion, so he appears in profile in low relief behind his hero, somewhat as an afterthought.
During the course of the work, Layard, who had been reorganising the Office of Works was, in October 1869, sent off to Madrid by Gladstone to become British Minister there and his post as First Commissioner of Works was taken over by Ayrton with his ëunfortunate personal qualitiesí. Layardís place on the executive committee of the memorial was taken by Charles Newton, the Keeper of Ancient Antiquities at the British Museum. According to Scott, Newton was ëso well known as the discoverer or recover of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassusí. Philip included Bryaxis on the frieze, who according to Newton, had worked on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and is shown with a model of it. However, Newton strongly objected to Philipís details, but Philip, perhaps remembering his contractual position, infuriated Newton by ignoring him and it was left to Scottís diplomatic skills to settle the problem. One figure appears twice on the frieze. Not surprisingly this is Michelangelo, who appears among Philipís sculptors as well as being one of Armsteadís painters.
Scott designed elaborate railings to surround the Memorial at the level of the lower sculpture groups which were made by Skidmore and installed in 1871. On the completion of the frieze, early in 1872, the sculptorsí studios were removed and on 1 July the Queen inspected the memorial. Two days later the general public were permitted to view it although Albertís statue was absent for another three years. In March 1876, it was revealed in all its glory without any ceremony.
The Prince had been dead for over fourteen year and public sentiment had moved on, although of course not that of the Queen. While architectural ideas had also changed, Scott held to his old beliefs. A year after his appointment and before any building work had started, Scott asked for Godís help: ëI as yet have no idea how it may end. I trust to be directed aright [sic]í. On 11 July 1872 when the work was finished apart from the Princeís statue and the press and public were allowed to see the work, he wrote:
I believe I shall have to bear the brunt of criticisms on this work of a character peculiar I fancy to this country I mean criticism premeditated & Predetermined wholly irrespective of the merits of the case ñ I have some years since had one great attack made upon me of this kind. I believe that Mr Beresford Hope though nominally friendly is only too glad to promote these attacks Ö I am told that I have to expect another probably this week in the Saturday Review. I must trust in God & take Courage. This, of course, was Scott being paranoid again and nothing appeared. Certainly Hope had criticised him in the
Saturday in July 1860, for having given in to Palmerstonís demands to a classical Foreign Office, but although Hope appeared somewhat aloof he was basically a solid supporter of Scott and his work. When he was a member of the select Committee on Public Offices and Buildings in June 1877, he described Scott as an eminent architect, and at his cross-examination of Scott he carefully framed his questions to enable Scottís replies to appear in the best possible light. After Scottís death, a few monthís later, he headed a list of subscribers towards a prize fund set up as a memorial to Scott and acted as one of the pall-bearers at his funeral.
However, the week before the Albert Memorial was revealed, on 5 July 1872, an anonymous article appeared in
The Pall Mall Gazette criticising its design. This was written by the art critic, Sidney Colvin, who was a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. Scott was upset that Colvin thought that the columns looked inadequate, the podium looked weak and the steps were too massive. But he represented a new generation of Trinity dons who had rejected many of the teachings of their predecessors upon which Scottís High Victorian style had been built. Colvin felt that the designer of the memorial lacked artistic instinct and had fallen back onto unintelligent, mechanical and material modes of enrichment, loosing ëall character of human accent, scheme or meaningí. Scott was deeply concerned about this criticism. At first he tried to persuade Newton to come to his defence but, as he found Layard was on a visit to England, he instead got him to ëspontaneouslyí write a letter of support on 14 July 1872. He offered Scott his:
warmest congratulations upon the great success which has been achieved. It is a magnificent monument which will be an honour to the country and to you Ö Of course there will be adverse criticisms ñ the most perfect work in the world would not escape them ñ but they are not worthy of notice and will be forgotten in a very short time. Those who have anything to do with the Press know from when these criticisms generally come and can trace the motives for them. In this case they represent the opinions of one prejudiced and unfriendly man opposed to the judgement and taste of the million Ö In fact Colvin was involved in the Queen Anne movement through his friend from Trinity, Basil Champneys, who along with the Spring Garden alumni, were now erecting secular buildings in the new style. Even before Albert was finally hoisted into position, his memorial was in an out of date style, but it was still to the ëtaste of the millioní.
Scottís particular accomplishment was to have found the exact level of the Queen and the Crown Princeís taste. Throughout all the campaigns to get him to alter his design, he seems to have been able to rely on them not to waiver from supporting his first proposals. The Albert Memorial was intended to be the ultimate expression of Scottís architectural theory in which the artists all work together towards a common purpose with himself as the architect exercising only a light control over their work. In fact it seems that his control was much tighter than he admits, and even in those areas where he had no contractual responsibility. It is typical of Scottís increasingly gloomy outlook that by the time the memorial was completed, he took the critical comments very personally and ignored the popular acclaim that it received. His handling of the nominated sub-contractors, such as the touchy sculptors and craftsmen, had been carried out with a combination of tact and firmness. In the end he achieved a saving of about £6,000 on the funds available. Taking into account the sculpture outside the contract, the total cost of the memorial was around £150,000. Scott received £5,000 in fees while Coad was paid a mere £602. The Queenís satisfaction with the memorial was expressed on 9 August 1872 when she knighted Scott at Osborne.
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The Builder, XX, 17 May 1862, pp. 348, 422, 547-8. Scottís Recollections, II 312-14, III 199-201, 203-5, 207-14, 216-22, 224, 230, 360, IV 17.
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Pugin, A. W., Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume (Bernard Quaritch, London, 1863), p. 73, see https://archive.org/stream/cu31924020490383#page/n95/mode/2up Gifford, J., McWilliam, C. and Walker, D., Edinburgh, Buildings of Scotland (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1984), p. 314.
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Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 (The Abbey Library, London, 1964), pp. 153-4, 235, 249, 256, 393, 418.
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Girouard, M., Sweetness and Light, The ëQueen Anneí Movement, 1860-1900 (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1977), p. 49.