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Albert, Prince Consort of Queen Victoria

An original charcoal portrait of Prince Albert, ca. 1845, with Windsor Castle in the background. It has been attributed to artist Charles Turner. (VMSS 355, folder OS 4)

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort of Queen Victoria. Albert was the younger son of Ernest, ruler of the German state of Saxe-Coberg-Gotha; Victoria was his first cousin. They married in 1840.

As a foreigner, Albert was initially viewed with suspicion by the British public as well as the political establishment. However, opposition cooled as Albert began to take on a more public-facing role during Victoria’s first pregnancy. His influence grew alongside their family, which eventually grew to include eight children. Though he felt constrained by the role of prince consort, Victoria depended on him heavily for emotional support and to handle the administrative responsibilities of the monarchy. He handled the finances of the royal household and cultivated a strong sense of morals and religiosity which are still associated with the Victorian period today.

Albert’s largest public achievement was perhaps the Great Exhibition of 1851. As president of the Society of Arts, he helped to promote and organize an international exhibition of industrial arts — the first world’s fair — which included the construction of a huge glass and iron building in London’s Hyde Park to house the over 13,000 exhibitors.

When Albert died in December 1861 after a protracted illness, Victoria was devastated. She avoided public appearances for several years and wore black in mourning for the rest of her life. Throughout the decade after Albert’s death, Victoria authorized many public tributes for him, including the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, The Royal Albert Hall, and official biographies like Charles Grey’s The Early Years of His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, compiled under the direction of Her Majesty the Queen (1867). The library owns two specially-bound presentation copies of this book, one of which is shown here.


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