The Prince Albert Memorial is a monument, essentially a ciborium, erected in honour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s Consort. His death only at age 42, not only shocked the nation but also devastated the Queen. The monument is one of the great works of the Victorian renowned architect George Gilbert Scott in 1863-72.
The cast-bronze statue of the late prince sits on a plinth upon a larger pedestal, which also has marble figure groups of the four continents and a frieze of great artists, figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering.
From the centre rises a massive spire, containing a smaller 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.
There’s four massive marble figures representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America that stand at each corner of the memorial as shown in the following four photos.
The monument is inside Kensington Gardens right across the street from Royal Albert Hall.
It’s beguiling even from a distance.
If you happen to visit London, and wanna stroll around Kensington Palace and Gardens, it’s worth seeing this monument. And of course, Royal Albert Hall is just across the street, another iconic building in the city that’s worth visiting. If interested to read more about Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, here’s a link to an old blog post.
Today marks the bicentenary of the birth of Queen Victoria. She was born at Kensington Palace and lived there until her accession, on that historic morning, the 20th of June 1837, when she was informed of the death of her uncle, King William IV. Up until that day, aged 18, she shared a bedroom with her extremely protective mother and was never out of her mother’s, or her nanny’s sight. But something significant happened on that fateful morning, she went to see the Prime Minister and her privy council on her own without her mother. Then she moved out of her mother’s bedroom into another room at Kensington Palace and only her governess was given access to her bedroom, a privilege denied to her mother. Even after she married Prince Albert and moved to Buckingham Palace, Lehzen became her private secretary and had access to her bedroom. Again, it was a privilege she never gave to her mother. In fact, she never allowed her mother to live at Buckingham Palace but had bought her a house in London where she lived until her death.
It’s safe to say that if there’s one person that had the greatest influence on Victoria’s life, it was her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen. She was born in Hanover; her father was a Lutheran pastor and her mother was also a daughter of a pastor. No doubt Lehzen’s Christian upbringing made a strong impact on Victoria. She came to England as governess to Princess Féodore, Victoria’s half-sister. In 1824 Lehzen was appointed governess to the young princess Victoria, and remained as Victoria’s friend, ally and constant companion. Lehzen was strongly protective of Victoria and encouraged Victoria to become knowledgeable, strong, and independent from her mother’s and her mother’s private secretary, John Conroy’s influence. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Conroy tried to control Victoria and even tried to forced her to sign a document that would make Conroy a regent in case Victoria inherits the throne before she turns 18. Lehzen advised Victoria against it and she dedicated her life to ensure that if Victoria became Queen, she would be intelligent and strong-minded. After the queen married Prince Albert, Lehzen became her secretary in private matters. Lehzen was often criticised by many historians for her influence over Victoria but I believe that if there’s one person who truly had only Victoria’s interests at heart, that would be Baroness Lehzen. Victoria wrote in her diary about Lehzen, “she’s the most affectionate, devoted, attached and disinterested friend I have.”
Lehzen not only imparted to the princess Christian values but also a love of history. She also provided the love and affection which Victoria never received from her own mother. The princess was taught to control her temper and to admit her mistakes to all she had wronged, regardless of rank. Though she encouraged the princess from a young age to keep a journal, she never kept one herself, thinking it inappropriate to her position as a royal servant. “She was very strict.”, Victoria later wrote in her diary. The queen had great respect and seemed in awe of Lehzen, but with that the greatest affection as her diary revealed. Even in old age, Queen Victoria often talked about her governess and made mentioned of her in her diary. The queen provided Lehzen a handsome pension, visited her in Hanover several times, sent her a wheelchair when she was infirmed, and after Lehzen’s death, the queen even erected a memorial in her honour. No doubt, Baroness Lehzen was indeed the greatest single influence in the formative period of the character of the princess. Lehzen was her confidant, best friend and ally. God has providentially worked it out that Lehzen became an instrument in imparting Christian virtues to the princess, and it must be to her credit, and ultimately to God, for handing over to the nation a queen that embraced Christian values. God has indeed accomplished His purpose in the life of Queen Victoria.
She lived a truly unique life. Under her rule, Britain doubled its size making it the largest imperial power in the world. It controlled more than 14 million square miles of territory (23% of the world’s surface) and approximately 460 million people at its peak. It has an international trade that dwarfed all others, and produced thirty percent of the world’s total industrial output. Its navy dominated the oceans and its empire expanded on a simple principle that trade follows the flag. It was described as being the “Empire on which the sun never sets.”
There are innumerable books written about Queen Victoria and I’ve read more than a dozen biographies written by both British and foreign historians. I’ve also read a lot of social history books on the Victorian era simply because it truly is my favourite period in British history. What’s remarkable about this age is the fact that religion pervaded the social as well as the political life to an extent that’s unimaginable today. The British people embraced Christian values; that’s not to say that majority of the people were Christians but rather, people were extremely religious; were thirsting for faith and are continually seeking it. The Russian theologian Alexis Khomiakov was amazed at how silent the streets of London were on a Sunday. He wrote in his book, Russia and the English Church, (London, 1895): “Germany has in reality no religion at all but the idolatry of science; France has no serious longings for truth, and little sincerity; England with its modest science and its serious love of religious truth might [seem] to give some hopes…” Remarkably, it was also an age of major scientific discovery and progress, and the rise of Darwin’s Origin of Species to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and other new ideologies that undermined faith in the truth of the Bible.
Kensington Palace has a permanent exhibit on Queen Victoria’s life, and to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth there’s a special exhibit called Discover the Real Victoria. It opens today and I can’t wait to visit. I’m sure the exhibit will yield more fascinating and fresh insights into the life of Queen Victoria.
Five years ago I made a comparison of the current queen and her great-great-grandmother in this post.
We have had the longest winter ever! And this is one of the coldest spring I can remember since I moved to London 18 years ago. April started out bitterly cold this year, and there was little sign the cold will be relenting until about a couple of weeks ago. Not that we didn’t get our spells of brilliant sunshine, we sure did. But even when the sun was out, it still was a bit chilly. Obviously it hasn’t fooled the trees. Wisterias were in full bloom this time last year; today the buds are just barely starting to bulge and it might take two to three weeks before they are in full bloom. Continue reading “Spring? More like Summer in London!”→
Just as the first signs of the new season are starting to bloom, London is blanketed in snow and the forecasted severe weather implied freezing cold temperatures until the end of the week. Snow is a fairly rare phenomenon in Britain’s capital, and the tiniest sheet of white can cause Londoners to go into a state of hysteria — flights are cancelled, roads are closed, public transportations are delayed, everything seems to shutdown, and the city goes on a panic mode. Londoners just can’t cope with the downpour of snow! While I like snow and enjoy the lovely wintery landscape, I hate being cold. With five layers of clothing, I went out with Jared the other day to document the scene. The trees look quite breathtaking under the soft white powdery snow blanket. It was biting cold and even with leather gloves lined with cashmere, it felt like my fingers were falling off haha! I don’t think I can cope living in a place with sub-zero temperatures. Anyhow, we took loads of photos with our iPhones and I just wanted to share a few of them. For my family and friends in the tropics, these photos may cause you to dream about being in winter wonderland. 🙂 Continue reading “Postcards from London – Winter 2018”→
The winter landscape in London is really a thing of beauty. I love taking long walks at the park even in the dead of winter, and I am always in awe of God’s work in creation especially by the sheer beauty of the seemingly dead (but actually teeming with life) trees. Continue reading “Christmas in London (3rd of 3 Parts)”→
London is a city full of unexpected surprises. Every time I am out, doing an errand or simply traipsing around the park, I always come across something peculiar. The group of ladies having a ‘Hen Party’ — Bridal Shower to Americans (featured image) at Hyde Park Corner is a classic example of this. I find this a bit odd because it is an event that’s usually done in private, but evidently not for some Londoners. Continue reading “Thrills and Frills of Living in London”→
Here’s Part 1.
During the winter months when it’s freezing cold and wet outside (rain in London is always a possibility regardless of the season), some people are probably bored being stuck inside and spend a good hour peering their house windows wondering what to do. As for me, all I want to do is to reach into my pile of books and gleefully pull out a book or two and snuggle down on a sofa and spend the day reading and sipping a cup of tea. Continue reading “Winter Delights (2nd of 2 Parts)”→
London might not be renowned for good weather but every once in a while, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the grass are green, and we go out and enjoy the day! 🙂 The days are getting longer; it doesn’t get dark until after eight o’clock in the evening and it enables me to do more outdoor activities even late at night. Continue reading “Just A Normal Day in London”→