Widowhood





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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