The relationship between Queen Victoria and Albert the Prince Consort was a union that lasted more than 20 years and produced nine children (and 42 grandchildren) who married into the most important royal families of the day.
The two met when they were 20, married, and lived happily together for over 20 years till Albert died of Typhoid at the age of 42. Victoria remained in mourning till her death at age 81.
During a recent trip to London, I became intriguted about the relationship between these two cousins after watching “Young Victoria,” starring Emily Blunt as the future queen. I stumbled upon an exhibit about the couple at the lovely Queen’s Gallery, a small space for temporary exhibits next to Buckingham Palace. Entitled Victoria and Albert:Art &Love, it’s the first major exhibition to focus on Victoria and Albert and their shared enthusiasm for art.
The exhibit includes pieces the couple acquired for themselves, gifts they gave one another, and pieces offered to them as gifts. Both were avid collectors and despite the fact they headed the richest empire in history up till that time, they didn’t really have a lot of money allocated for the collection of art — and subsequently couldn’t directly compete with the great collectors of the day — but they managed to assemble a wonderful collection.
Everywhere Victoria went she commissioned a piece to commemorate her visit. She was an early supporter of photographers, which help popularize this new medium, and there are even images of her captured on motion pictures, which help bring this brand new medium to the attention of the masses.
It appears that Albert — with his intense interest in the arts and sciences and patronage of both artists and scientists — really helped fuel Victoria’s passion for the arts. Her rate of commission of art plummeted after his death.One fine piece of art she commissioned and erected was the fabulous Albert Memorial in Hyde Park which is pictured above. It’s clear that she really loved him (and he clearly shared that love). Their love was a thing of beauty captured in art.