PRINCE ALBERT

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Jonathan James created this outfit and was inspired by Peter Tully and Jenny Kee. Albert’s robe is forget-me-not blue representing a life cut short which is in addition to the broken column, already part of the statue, and having the same significance. The love hearts on his back reference the great romance between him and his wife Queen Victoria whom he is facing across Macquarie St. The wild-flowers on the cape are a reference to Jenny Kee’s love of the Australian bush and Albert’s scepter has been transformed into a giant wattle, pointing at the wattle on the base of Victoria’s dress across the road.

Albert is wearing a garter made from old buttons which include a peace symbol. This references both his being part of the Order of the Garter (one of the oldest orders of chivalry… read below for more info on this) and also his love of peaceful negotiation and diplomacy with regard to international politics. He was a large influence on Victoria in this way, always encouraging her to use language that would not offend other world leaders.

The neck piece, made of plastic cups and trinkets, is heavily inspired by Peter Tully who was a prominent artist within the bold and flamboyant wearable art scene in the 1970s in Sydney. Tully had a great love of taking ordinary objects, like kitchen colanders or sand-buckets, and turning them into mad headpieces or jewelry. He created necklaces comprised of perspex vegemite jars, kangaroos, gum leaves, wild-flowers, Harbour Bridges and other typical ‘Australian’ icons, all strung together. He sold these through the Flamingo Park Frock Salon, run by Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Tully was a huge influence and driving force in turning the Sydney Mardi Gras from a political march into the celebration of colour, fun, spectacle and pride that it is today, being its Creative Director for 3 years in the 1980’s. Much of Tully’s work is now kept in the Powerhouse Museum and he is considered a national treasure.

About Prince Albert

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born in 1819 in Bavaria and married his cousin Queen Victoria when he was 21 and she was 20. Albert became a huge influence on Victoria and  private secretary and chief confidential adviser. At the time of their marriage the Queen had been a rather idle Monarch and an outspoken supporter of the Whigs who among other things opposed religious involvement in politics. At Albert’s urging she abandoned her politics and became more politically neutral. He also encouraged in her a greater interest in social welfare and was also key in leading reforms in university education and slavery. In turn Queen Victoria was seen as a hardworking monarch. Disputes with Prussia in 1856 and the United States in 1861 ended peacefully, at least in part because Albert suggested rewording Foreign Office dispatches so that they could not be construed as ultimatums. Albert’s involvement was unwelcome to various government ministers, especially Lord Palmerston. Albert was not granted the title of Prince Consort until late in life, in 1857.

Albert was a romantic and a gentleman and a member of the Order of the Garter, the oldest order of chivalry in the world. The actual statue shows him wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter of which Jonathan has given him a new set (including a new garter).

Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry. He was also an accomplished musician. He masterminded and managed the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace, London, and was planning the South Kensington Exhibition of 1862 when he died at the age of 42 from typhoid fever.

During his life the British aristocracy did not care for Albert’s moral tone, his professorial manner or his artistic versatility. His reputation was somewhat softened after his death when people began to celebrate and memorialise his influence (many institutions were named after him including the Royal Albert Hall).

It is said that the Queen never fully recovered from Albert’s death, withdrawing from public life and wearing black in mourning for the rest of her life.

About The Sculptor

The statue was made by Albert’s close friend the sculptor William Theed. Theed was born in 1804 and was the son of a sculptor. He studied in London and Rome where he worked for 20 years before coming to the attention of the Prince Consort who was seeking sculptures for his new house on the Isle of Wight. Theed became a favourite of the Prince and after Albert’s death in 1861 Theed sculpted a marble statue of him for the Queen who also requested that it be Theed who cast Prince Albert’s death mask.

About The Statue

The statue was unveiled on 23 April 1866, in its first location at the entrance to Lover’s Walk in Hyde Park. The Sydney Morning Herald describes the scene as ‘the tens of thousands who assembled to witness the ceremony formed the greatest demonstration that has ever taken place in the Australian colonies… the meeting was not one of representatives; it was a gathering of the people, rich and poor, literate and unlearned, to do honor to the memory of a Prince who was the friend of all classes and the zealous promoter of every good work.’ It was moved in 1922 to the Botanic Gardens, and moved again in 1987 to face Queen Victoria at its current location.

Archive research by Anne-Maree Whitaker

Additional research by Brendan Phelan and Imogen Semmler

Sources

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 1866, p 5
  • Sydney Open Museum History Survey (1994), No. 15 – Prince Albert Statue

Further Reading

  • Bolitho, Hector Albert, Prince Consort (London; M. Parrish, 1964)
  • Yonge, Charlotte M. Life of H.R.H the Prince Consort (London; Allen 1890)
  • Pound, Reginald Albert: a biography of the Prince Consort (London; Joseph, 1973)
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