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I

The death of the Prince Consort was the central turning-point in the
history of Queen Victoria. She herself felt that her true life had
ceased with her husband's, and that the remainder of her days upon
earth was of a twilight nature--an epilogue to a drama that was done.
Nor is it possible that her biographer should escape a similar
impression. For him, too, there is a darkness over the latter half of
that long career. The first forty-two years of the Queen's life are
illuminated by a great and varied quantity of authentic information.
With Albert's death a veil descends. Only occasionally, at fitful and
disconnected intervals, does it lift for a moment or two; a few main
outlines, a few remarkable details may be discerned; the rest is all
conjecture and ambiguity. Thus, though the Queen survived her great
bereavement for almost as many years as she had lived before it, the
chronicle of those years can bear no proportion to the tale of her
earlier life. We must be content in our ignorance with a brief and
summary relation.



The sudden removal of the Prince was not merely a matter of
overwhelming personal concern to Victoria; it was an event of national,
of European importance. He was only forty-two, and in the ordinary
course of nature he might have been expected to live at least
thirty years longer. Had he done so it can hardly be doubted that the
whole development of the English polity would have been changed.
Already at the time of his death he filled a unique place in English
public life; already among the inner circle of politicians he was
accepted as a necessary and useful part of the mechanism of the State.
Lord Clarendon, for instance, spoke of his death as 'a national
calamity of far greater importance than the public dream of,' and
lamented the loss of his 'sagacity and foresight,' which, he declared,
would have been 'more than ever valuable' in the event of an American
war. And, as time went on, the Prince's influence must have
enormously increased. For, in addition to his intellectual and moral
qualities, he enjoyed, by virtue of his position, one supreme advantage
which every other holder of high office in the country was without: he
was permanent. Politicians came and went, but the Prince was
perpetually installed at the centre of affairs. Who can doubt that,
towards the end of the century, such a man, grown grey in the service
of the nation, virtuous, intelligent, and with the unexampled
experience of a whole lifetime of government, would have acquired an
extraordinary prestige? If, in his youth, he had been able to pit the
Crown against the mighty Palmerston and to come off with equal honours
from the contest, of what might he not have been capable in his old
age? What Minister, however able, however popular, could have
withstood the wisdom, the irreproachability, the vast prescriptive
authority, of the venerable Prince? It is easy to imagine how, under
such a ruler, an attempt might have been made to convert England into a
State as exactly organised, as elaborately trained, as
efficiently equipped, and as autocratically controlled, as Prussia
herself. Then perhaps, eventually, under some powerful leader--a
Gladstone or a Bright--the democratic forces in the country might have
rallied together, and a struggle might have followed in which the
Monarchy would have been shaken to its foundations. Or, on the other
hand, Disraeli's hypothetical prophecy might have come true. 'With
Prince Albert,' he said, 'we have buried our sovereign. This German
Prince has governed England for twenty-one years with a wisdom and
energy such as none of our kings have ever shown.... If he had
outlived some of our "old stagers" he would have given us the blessings
of absolute government."

The English Constitution--that indescribable entity--is a living thing,
growing with the growth of men, and assuming ever-varying forms in
accordance with the subtle and complex laws of human character. It is
the child of wisdom and chance. The wise men of 1688 moulded it into
the shape we know; but the chance that George I could not speak English
gave it one of its essential peculiarities--the system of a Cabinet
independent of the Crown and subordinate to the Prime Minister. The
wisdom of Lord Grey saved it from petrifaction and destruction, and set
it upon the path of Democracy. Then chance intervened once more; a
female sovereign happened to marry an able and pertinacious man; and it
seemed likely that an element which had been quiescent within it for
years--the element of irresponsible administrative power--was about to
become its predominant characteristic and to change completely the
direction of its growth. But what chance gave, chance took away. The
Consort perished in his prime; and the English Constitution,
dropping the dead limb with hardly a tremor, continued its mysterious
life as if he had never been.

One human being, and one alone, felt the full force of what had
happened. The Baron, by his fireside at Coburg, suddenly saw the
tremendous fabric of his creation crash down into sheer and
irremediable ruin. Albert was gone, and he had lived in vain. Even
his blackest hypochondria had never envisioned quite so miserable a
catastrophe. Victoria wrote to him, visited him, tried to console him
by declaring with passionate conviction that she would carry on her
husband's work. He smiled a sad smile and looked into the fire. Then
he murmured that he was going where Albert was--that he would not be
long. He shrank into himself. His children clustered round him and
did their best to comfort him, but it was useless: the Baron's heart
was broken. He lingered for eighteen months, and then, with his pupil,
explored the shadow and the dust.


II

With appalling suddenness Victoria had exchanged the serene radiance of
happiness for the utter darkness of woe. In the first dreadful moments
those about her had feared that she might lose her reason, but the iron
strain within her held firm, and in the intervals between the intense
paroxysms of grief it was observed that the Queen was calm. She
remembered, too, that Albert had always disapproved of exaggerated
manifestations of feeling, and her one remaining desire was to do
nothing but what he would have wished. Yet there were moments when her
royal anguish would brook no restraints. One day she sent for
the Duchess of Sutherland, and, leading her to the Prince's room, fell
prostrate before his clothes in a flood of weeping, while she adjured
the Duchess to tell her whether the beauty of Albert's character had
ever been surpassed. At other times a feeling akin to indignation
swept over her. 'The poor fatherless baby of eight months,' she wrote
to the King of the Belgians, 'is now the utterly heart-broken and
crushed widow of forty-two! My life as a happy one is ended!
The world is gone for me! ... Oh! to be cut off in the prime of
life--to see our pure, happy, quiet, domestic life, which alone
enabled me to bear my much disliked position, CUT OFF at
forty-two--when I had hoped with such instinctive certainty that God
never would part us, and would let us grow old together (though he
always talked of the shortness of life)--is too awful, too cruel!'
The tone of outraged Majesty seems to be discernible. Did she wonder
in her heart of hearts how the Deity could have dared?

But all other emotions gave way before her overmastering determination
to continue, absolutely unchanged, and for the rest of her life on
earth, her reverence, her obedience, her idolatry. 'I am anxious to
repeat one thing,' she told her uncle, 'and that one is my firm
resolve, my irrevocable decision, viz. that his wishes--his
plans--about everything, his views about every thing are to be my
law! And no human power will make me swerve from what he decided
and wished.' She grew fierce, she grew furious, at the thought of any
possible intrusion between her and her desire. Her uncle was coming to
visit her, and it flashed upon her that he might try to interfere
with her and seek to 'rule the roast' as of old. She would give him a
hint. 'I am also determined,' she wrote, 'that no one
person--may he be ever so good, ever so devoted among my servants--is
to lead or guide or dictate to me. I know how he would disapprove
it ... Though miserably weak and utterly shattered, my spirit rises
when I think any wish or plan of his is to be touched or changed, or I
am to be made to do anything.' She ended her letter in grief and
affection. She was, she said, his 'ever wretched but devoted child,
Victoria R.' And then she looked at the date: it was the 24th of
December. An agonising pang assailed her, and she dashed down a
postscript--'What a Xmas! I won't think of it.'

At first, in the tumult of her distresses, she declared that she could
not see her Ministers, and the Princess Alice, assisted by Sir Charles
Phipps, the keeper of the Privy Purse, performed, to the best of her
ability, the functions of an intermediary. After a few weeks, however,
the Cabinet, through Lord John Russell, ventured to warn the Queen that
this could not continue. She realised that they were right: Albert
would have agreed with them; and so she sent for the Prime Minister.
But when Lord Palmerston arrived at Osborne, in the pink of health,
brisk, with his whiskers freshly dyed, and dressed in a brown overcoat,
light grey trousers, green gloves, and blue studs, he did not create a
very good impression.

Nevertheless, she had grown attached to her old enemy, and the thought
of a political change filled her with agitated apprehensions. The
Government, she knew, might fall at any moment; she felt she could not
face such an eventuality; and therefore, six months after the death of
the Prince, she took the unprecedented step of sending a private
message to Lord Derby, the leader of the Opposition, to tell him that
she was not in a fit state of mind or body to undergo the anxiety of a
change of Government, and that if he turned the present Ministers out
of office it would be at the risk of sacrificing her life--or her
reason. When this message reached Lord Derby he was considerably
surprised. 'Dear me!' was his cynical comment. 'I didn't think she
was so fond of them as that.'

Though the violence of her perturbations gradually subsided, her
cheerfulness did not return. For months, for years, she continued in
settled gloom. Her life became one of almost complete seclusion.
Arrayed in thickest crepe, she passed dolefully from Windsor to
Osborne, from Osborne to Balmoral. Rarely visiting the capital,
refusing to take any part in the ceremonies of state, shutting herself
off from the slightest intercourse with society, she became almost as
unknown to her subjects as some potentate of the East. They might
murmur, but they did not understand. What had she to do with empty
shows and vain enjoyments? No! She was absorbed by very different
preoccupations. She was the devoted guardian of a sacred trust. Her
place was in the inmost shrine of the house of mourning--where she
alone had the right to enter, where she could feel the effluence of a
mysterious presence, and interpret, however faintly and feebly, the
promptings of a still living soul. That, and that only, was her
glorious, her terrible duty. For terrible indeed it was. As the years
passed her depression seemed to deepen and her loneliness to grow more
intense. 'I am on a dreary sad pinnacle of solitary grandeur,' she
said. Again and again she felt that she could bear her
situation no longer--that she would sink under the strain. And then,
instantly, that Voice spoke: and she braced herself once more to
perform, with minute conscientiousness, her grim and holy task.

Above all else, what she had to do was to make her own the
master-impulse of Albert's life--she must work, as he had worked, in
the service of the country. That vast burden of toil which he had
taken upon his shoulders it was now for her to bear. She assumed the
gigantic load; and naturally she staggered under it. While he had
lived, she had worked, indeed, with regularity and application; but it
was work made easy, made delicious, by his care, his forethought, his
advice, and his infallibility. The mere sound of his voice, asking her
to sign a paper, had thrilled her; in such a presence she could have
laboured gladly for ever. But now there was a hideous change. Now
there were no neat piles and docketings under the green lamp; now there
were no simple explanations of difficult matters; now there was nobody
to tell her what was right and what was wrong. She had her
secretaries, no doubt: there were Sir Charles Phipps, and General Grey,
and Sir Thomas Biddulph; and they did their best. But they were mere
subordinates: the whole weight of initiative and responsibility rested
upon her alone. For so it had to be. 'I am determined'--had she not
declared it?--'that no one person is to lead or guide or dictate to
me'; anything else would be a betrayal of her trust. She would follow
the Prince in all things. He had refused to delegate authority; he had
examined into every detail with his own eyes; he had made it a rule
never to sign a paper without having first, not merely read it, but
made notes on it too. She would do the same. She sat from
morning till night surrounded by huge heaps of despatch-boxes, reading
and writing at her desk--at her desk, alas! which stood alone now in
the room.

Within two years of Albert's death a violent disturbance in foreign
politics put Victoria's faithfulness to a crucial test. The fearful
Schleswig-Holstein dispute, which had been smouldering for more than a
decade, showed signs of bursting out into conflagration. The
complexity of the questions at issue was indescribable. 'Only three
people,' said Palmerston, 'have ever really understood the
Schleswig-Holstein business--the Prince Consort, who is dead--a German
professor, who has gone mad--and I, who have forgotten all about
it.' But, though the Prince might be dead, had he not left a
vicegerent behind him? Victoria threw herself into the seething
embroilment with the vigour of inspiration. She devoted hours daily to
the study of the affair in all its windings; but she had a clue through
the labyrinth: whenever the question had been discussed, Albert, she
recollected it perfectly, had always taken the side of Prussia. Her
course was clear. She became an ardent champion of the Prussian point
of view. It was a legacy from the Prince, she said. She did not
realise that the Prussia of the Prince's days was dead, and that a new
Prussia, the Prussia of Bismarck, was born. Perhaps Palmerston, with
his queer prescience, instinctively apprehended the new danger; at any
rate, he and Lord John were agreed upon the necessity of
supporting Denmark against Prussia's claims. But opinion was sharply
divided, not only in the country but in the Cabinet. For eighteen
months the controversy raged; while the Queen, with persistent
vehemence, opposed the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. When
at last the final crisis arose--when it seemed possible that England
would join forces with Denmark in a war against Prussia--Victoria's
agitation grew febrile in its intensity. Towards her German relatives
she preserved a discreet appearance of impartiality; but she poured out
upon her Ministers a flood of appeals, protests, and expostulations.
She invoked the sacred cause of Peace. 'The only chance of preserving
peace for Europe,' she wrote, 'is by not assisting Denmark, who has
brought this entirely upon herself.... The Queen suffers much, and her
nerves are more and more totally shattered.... But though all this
anxiety is wearing her out, it will not shake her firm purpose of
resisting any attempt to involve this country in a mad and useless
combat.' She was, she declared, 'prepared to make a stand,' even if
the resignation of the Foreign Secretary should follow. 'The
Queen,' she told Lord Granville, 'is completely exhausted by the
anxiety and suspense, and misses her beloved husband's help, advice,
support, and love in an overwhelming manner.' She was so worn out by
her efforts for peace that she could 'hardly hold up her head or hold
her pen.' England did not go to war, and Denmark was left to her
fate; but how far the attitude of the Queen contributed to this result
it is impossible, with our present knowledge, to say. On the whole,
however, it seems probable that the determining factor in the situation
was the powerful peace party in the Cabinet rather than the
imperious and pathetic pressure of Victoria.

It is, at any rate, certain that the Queen's enthusiasm for the sacred
cause of peace was short-lived. Within a few months her mind had
completely altered. Her eyes were opened to the true nature of
Prussia, whose designs upon Austria were about to culminate in the
Seven Weeks' War. Veering precipitately from one extreme to the other,
she now urged her Ministers to interfere by force of arms in support of
Austria. But she urged in vain.

Her political activity, no more than her social seclusion, was approved
by the public. As the years passed, and the royal mourning remained as
unrelieved as ever, the animadversions grew more general and more
severe. It was observed that the Queen's protracted privacy not only
cast a gloom over high society, not only deprived the populace of its
pageantry, but also exercised a highly deleterious effect upon the
dress-making, millinery, and hosiery trades. This latter consideration
carried great weight. At last, early in 1864, the rumour spread that
Her Majesty was about to go out of mourning, and there was much
rejoicing in the newspapers; but unfortunately it turned out that the
rumour was quite without foundation. Victoria, with her own hand,
wrote a letter to The Times to say so. 'This idea,' she declared,
'cannot be too explicitly contradicted.' 'The Queen,' the letter
continued, 'heartily appreciates the desire of her subjects to see her,
and whatever she can do to gratify them in this loyal and
affectionate wish, she will do.... But there are other and higher
duties than those of mere representation which are now thrown upon the
Queen, alone and unassisted--duties which she cannot neglect
without injury to the public service, which weigh unceasingly upon her,
overwhelming her with work and anxiety.' The justification might
have been considered more cogent had it not been known that those
'other and higher duties' emphasised by the Queen consisted for the
most part of an attempt to counteract the foreign policy of Lord
Palmerston and Lord John Russell. A large section--perhaps a
majority--of the nation were violent partisans of Denmark in the
Schleswig-Holstein quarrel; and Victoria's support of Prussia was
widely denounced. A wave of unpopularity, which reminded old observers
of the period preceding the Queen's marriage more than twenty-five
years before, was beginning to rise. The press was rude; Lord
Ellenborough attacked the Queen in the House of Lords; there were
curious whispers in high quarters that she had had thoughts of
abdicating--whispers followed by regrets that she had not done so.
Victoria, outraged and injured, felt that she was misunderstood. She
was profoundly unhappy. After Lord Ellenborough's speech, General Grey
declared that he 'had never seen the Queen so completely upset.' 'Oh,
how fearful it is,' she herself wrote to Lord Granville, 'to be
suspected--uncheered--unguided and unadvised--and how alone the poor
Queen feels!' Nevertheless, suffer as she might, she was as
resolute as ever; she would not move by a hair's-breadth from the
course that a supreme obligation marked out for her; she would be
faithful to the end.

And so, when Schleswig-Holstein was forgotten, and even the image
of the Prince had begun to grow dim in the fickle memories of men, the
solitary watcher remained immutably concentrated at her peculiar task.
The world's hostility, steadily increasing, was confronted and outfaced
by the impenetrable weeds of Victoria. Would the world never
understand? It was not mere sorrow that kept her so strangely
sequestered; it was devotion, it was self-immolation; it was the
laborious legacy of love. Unceasingly the pen moved over the
black-edged paper. The flesh might be weak, but that vast burden must
be borne. And fortunately, if the world would not understand, there
were faithful friends who did. There was Lord Granville, and there was
kind Mr. Theodore Martin. Perhaps Mr. Martin, who was so clever, would
find means to make people realise the facts. She would send him a
letter, pointing out her arduous labours and the difficulties under
which she struggled, and then he might write an article for one of the
magazines. It is not, she told him in 1863, 'the Queen's sorrow that
keeps her secluded.... It is her overwhelming work and her health,
which is greatly shaken by her sorrow, and the totally overwhelming
amount of work and responsibility--work which she feels really wears
her out. Alice Helps was wonder-struck at the Queen's room; and if
Mrs. Martin will look at it, she can tell Mr. Martin what surrounds
her. From the hour she gets out of bed till she gets into it again
there is work, work, work,--letter-boxes, questions, &c., which are
dreadfully exhausting--and if she had not comparative rest and quiet in
the evening she would most likely not be alive. Her brain is
constantly overtaxed.' It was too true.




III

To carry on Albert's work--that was her first duty; but there was
another, second only to that, and yet nearer, if possible, to her
heart--to impress the true nature of his genius and character upon the
minds of her subjects. She realised that during his life he had not
been properly appreciated; the full extent of his powers, the supreme
quality of his goodness, had been necessarily concealed; but death had
removed the need of barriers, and now her husband, in his magnificent
entirety, should stand revealed to all. She set to work methodically.
She directed Sir Arthur Helps to bring out a collection of the Prince's
speeches and addresses, and the weighty tome appeared in 1862. Then
she commanded General Grey to write an account of the Prince's early
years--from his birth to his marriage; she herself laid down the design
of the book, contributed a number of confidential documents, and added
numerous notes; General Grey obeyed, and the work was completed in
1866. But the principal part of the story was still untold, and Mr.
Martin was forthwith instructed to write a complete biography of the
Prince Consort. Mr. Martin laboured for fourteen years. The mass of
material with which he had to deal was almost incredible, but he was
extremely industrious, and he enjoyed throughout the gracious
assistance of Her Majesty. The first bulky volume was published in
1874; four others slowly followed; so that it was not until 1880 that
the monumental work was finished.

Mr. Martin was rewarded by a knighthood; and yet it was sadly
evident that neither Sir Theodore nor his predecessors had achieved the
purpose which the Queen had in view. Perhaps she was unfortunate in
her coadjutors, but, in reality, the responsibility for the failure
must lie with Victoria herself. Sir Theodore and the others faithfully
carried out the task which she had set them--faithfully put before the
public the very image of Albert that filled her own mind. The fatal
drawback was that the public did not find that image attractive.
Victoria's emotional nature, far more remarkable for vigour than for
subtlety, rejecting utterly the qualifications which perspicacity, or
humour, might suggest, could be satisfied with nothing but the absolute
and the categorical. When she disliked she did so with an unequivocal
emphasis which swept the object of her repugnance at once and finally
outside the pale of consideration; and her feelings of affection were
equally unmitigated. In the case of Albert her passion for
superlatives reached its height. To have conceived of him as anything
short of perfect--perfect in virtue, in wisdom, in beauty, in all the
glories and graces of man--would have been an unthinkable blasphemy:
perfect he was, and perfect he must be shown to have been. And so Sir
Arthur, Sir Theodore, and the General painted him. In the
circumstances, and under such supervision, to have done anything else
would have required talents considerably more distinguished than any
that those gentlemen possessed. But that was not all. By a curious
mischance Victoria was also able to press into her service another
writer, the distinction of whose talents was this time beyond a doubt.
The Poet Laureate, adopting, either from complaisance or conviction,
the tone of his sovereign, joined in the chorus, and endowed the royal
formula with the magical resonance of verse. This settled the
matter. Henceforward it was impossible to forget that Albert had worn
the white flower of a blameless life.

The result was doubly unfortunate. Victoria, disappointed and
chagrined, bore a grudge against her people for their refusal, in spite
of all her efforts, to rate her husband at his true worth. She did not
understand that the picture of an embodied perfection is distasteful to
the majority of mankind. The cause of this is not so much an envy of
the perfect being as a suspicion that he must be inhuman; and thus it
happened that the public, when it saw displayed for its admiration a
figure resembling the sugary hero of a moral story-book rather than a
fellow man of flesh and blood, turned away with a shrug, a smile, and a
flippant ejaculation. But in this the public was the loser as well as
Victoria. For in truth Albert was a far more interesting personage
than the public dreamed. By a curious irony an impeccable waxwork had
been fixed by the Queen's love in the popular imagination, while the
creature whom it represented--the real creature, so full of energy and
stress and torment, so mysterious and so unhappy, and so fallible, and
so very human--had altogether disappeared.


IV

Words and books may be ambiguous memorials; but who can misinterpret
the visible solidity of bronze and stone? At Frogmore, near Windsor,
where her mother was buried, Victoria constructed, at the cost of
L200,000, a vast and elaborate mausoleum for herself and her
husband. But that was a private and domestic monument, and
the Queen desired that wherever her subjects might be gathered together
they should be reminded of the Prince. Her desire was gratified; all
over the country--at Aberdeen, at Perth, and at Wolverhampton--statues
of the Prince were erected; and the Queen, making an exception to her
rule of retirement, unveiled them herself. Nor did the capital lag
behind. A month after the Prince's death a meeting was called together
at the Mansion House to discuss schemes for honouring his memory.
Opinions, however, were divided upon the subject. Was a statue or an
institution to be preferred? Meanwhile a subscription was opened; an
influential committee was appointed, and the Queen was consulted as to
her wishes in the matter. Her Majesty replied that she would prefer a
granite obelisk, with sculptures at the base, to an institution. But
the committee hesitated: an obelisk, to be worthy of the name, must
clearly be a monolith; and where was the quarry in England capable of
furnishing a granite block of the required size? It was true that
there was granite in Russian Finland; but the committee were advised
that it was not adapted to resist exposure to the open air. On the
whole, therefore, they suggested that a Memorial Hall should be
erected, together with a statue of the Prince. Her Majesty assented;
but then another difficulty arose. It was found that not more than
L60,000 had been subscribed--a sum insufficient to defray the double
expense. The Hall, therefore, was abandoned; a statue alone was to be
erected; and certain eminent architects were asked to prepare designs.
Eventually the committee had at their disposal a total sum of L120,000,
since the public subscribed another L10,000, while L50,000 was voted by
Parliament. Some years later a joint-stock company was formed
and built, as a private speculation, the Albert Hall.

The architect whose design was selected, both by the committee and by
the Queen, was Mr. Gilbert Scott, whose industry, conscientiousness,
and genuine piety had brought him to the head of his profession. His
lifelong zeal for the Gothic style having given him a special
prominence, his handiwork was strikingly visible, not only in a
multitude of original buildings, but in most of the cathedrals of
England. Protests, indeed, were occasionally raised against his
renovations; but Mr. Scott replied with such vigour and unction in
articles and pamphlets that not a Dean was unconvinced, and he was
permitted to continue his labours without interruption. On one
occasion, however, his devotion to Gothic had placed him in an
unpleasant situation. The Government offices in Whitehall were to be
rebuilt; Mr. Scott competed, and his designs were successful.
Naturally, they were in the Gothic style, combining 'a certain
squareness and horizontality of outline' with pillar-mullions, gables,
high-pitched roofs, and dormers; and the drawings, as Mr. Scott himself
observed, 'were, perhaps, the best ever sent in to a competition, or
nearly so.' After the usual difficulties and delays the work was at
last to be put in hand, when there was a change of Government and Lord
Palmerston became Prime Minister. Lord Palmerston at once sent for Mr.
Scott. 'Well, Mr. Scott,' he said, in his jaunty way, 'I can't have
anything to do with this Gothic style. I must insist on your making a
design in the Italian manner, which I am sure you can do very
cleverly.' Mr. Scott was appalled; the style of the Italian
renaissance was not only unsightly, it was positively immoral,
and he sternly refused to have anything to do with it. Thereupon Lord
Palmerston assumed a fatherly tone. 'Quite true; a Gothic architect
can't be expected to put up a Classical building; I must find someone
else.' This was intolerable, and Mr. Scott, on his return home,
addressed to the Prime Minister a strongly-worded letter, in which he
dwelt upon his position as an architect, upon his having won two
European competitions, his being an A.R.A., a gold medallist of the
Institute, and a lecturer on architecture at the Royal Academy; but it
was useless--Lord Palmerston did not even reply. It then occurred to
Mr. Scott that, by a judicious mixture, he might, while preserving the
essential character of the Gothic, produce a design which would give a
superficial impression of the Classical style. He did so, but no
effect was produced upon Lord Palmerston. The new design, he said, was
'neither one thing nor t'other--a regular mongrel affair--and he would
have nothing to do with it either.' After that Mr. Scott found it
necessary to recruit for two months at Scarborough, 'with a course of
quinine.' He recovered his tone at last, but only at the cost of his
convictions. For the sake of his family he felt that it was his
unfortunate duty to obey the Prime Minister; and, shuddering with
horror, he constructed the Government offices in a strictly Renaissance
style.

Shortly afterwards Mr. Scott found some consolation in building the St.
Pancras Hotel in a style of his own.

And now another and yet more satisfactory task was his. 'My idea in
designing the Memorial,' he wrote, 'was to erect a kind of ciborium to
protect a statue of the Prince; and its special characteristic
was that the ciborium was designed in some degree on the principles of
the ancient shrines. These shrines were models of imaginary buildings,
such as had never in reality been erected; and my idea was to realise
one of these imaginary structures with its precious materials, its
inlaying, its enamels, &c. &c.' His idea was particularly
appropriate since it chanced that a similar conception, though in the
reverse order of magnitude, had occurred to the Prince himself, who had
designed and executed several silver cruet-stands upon the same model.
At the Queen's request a site was chosen in Kensington Gardens as near
as possible to that of the Great Exhibition; and in May 1864 the first
sod was turned. The work was long, complicated, and difficult; a great
number of workmen were employed, besides several subsidiary sculptors
and metal-workers under Mr. Scott's direction, while at every stage
sketches and models were submitted to her Majesty, who criticised all
the details with minute care, and constantly suggested improvements.
The frieze, which encircled the base of the monument, was in itself a
very serious piece of work. 'This,' said Mr. Scott, 'taken as a whole,
is perhaps one of the most laborious works of sculpture ever
undertaken, consisting, as it does, of a continuous range of
figure-sculpture of the most elaborate description, in the highest
alto-relievo of life-size, of more than 200 feet in length,
containing about 170 figures, and executed in the hardest marble which
could be procured.' After three years of toil the memorial was still
far from completion, and Mr. Scott thought it advisable to give a
dinner to the workmen, 'as a substantial recognition of his
appreciation of their skill and energy.' 'Two long tables,' we
are told, 'constructed of scaffold planks, were arranged in the
workshops, and covered with newspapers, for want of table-cloths.
Upwards of eighty men sat down. Beef and mutton, plum-pudding and
cheese, were supplied in abundance, and each man who desired it had
three pints of beer, gingerbeer and lemonade being provided for the
teetotalers, who formed a very considerable proportion.... Several
toasts were given and many of the workmen spoke, almost all of them
commencing by "Thanking God that they enjoyed good health"; some
alluded to the temperance that prevailed amongst them, others observed
how little swearing was ever heard, whilst all said how pleased and
proud they were to be engaged on so great a work.'

Gradually the edifice approached completion. The one hundred and
seventieth life-size figure in the frieze was chiselled, the granite
pillars arose, the mosaics were inserted in the allegorical pediments,
the four colossal statues representing the greater Christian virtues,
the four other colossal statues representing the greater moral virtues,
were hoisted into their positions, the eight bronzes representing the
greater sciences--Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology, Geometry, Rhetoric,
Medicine, Philosophy, and Physiology--were fixed on their glittering
pinnacles, high in air. The statue of Physiology was particularly
admired. 'On her left arm,' the official description informs us, 'she
bears a new-born infant, as a representation of the development of the
highest and most perfect of physiological forms; her hand points
towards a microscope, the instrument which lends its assistance for the
investigation of the minuter forms of animal and vegetable organisms.'
At last the gilded cross crowned the dwindling galaxies of
superimposed angels, the four continents in white marble stood at the
four corners of the base, and, seven years after its inception, in July
1872, the monument was thrown open to the public.

But four more years were to elapse before the central figure was ready
to be placed under its starry canopy. It was designed by Mr. Foley,
though in one particular the sculptor's freedom was restricted by Mr.
Scott. 'I have chosen the sitting posture,' Mr. Scott said, 'as best
conveying the idea of dignity befitting a royal personage.' Mr. Foley
ably carried out the conception of his principal. 'In the attitude and
expression,' he said, 'the aim has been, with the individuality of
portraiture, to embody rank, character, and enlightenment, and to
convey a sense of that responsive intelligence indicating an active,
rather than a passive, interest in those pursuits of civilisation
illustrated in the surrounding figures, groups, and relievos.... To
identify the figure with one of the most memorable undertakings of the
public life of the Prince--the International Exhibition of 1851--a
catalogue of the works collected in that first gathering of the
industry of all nations, is placed in the right hand.' The statue was
of bronze gilt and weighed nearly ten tons. It was rightly supposed
that the simple word 'Albert,' cast on the base, would be a sufficient
means of identification.





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Previous: Last Years Of The Prince Consort



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