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5,000 papers reflecting the life and legacy of Prince Albert made digitally available for the first time

Release date: Thursday, 23 September 2021

Thomas Richard Williams, Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort and Victoria, Princess Royal in the dress they wore at the marriage of Princess Royal, 25 Jan 1858. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021

Over 5,000 papers and photographs relating to the life and legacy of Prince Albert (1819–1861), consort of Queen Victoria, have been digitally published, marking the completion of the Prince Albert Digitisation Project. A total of 22,000 archival documents, prints and photographs from the Royal Archives, the Royal Collection and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 are now publicly available, the majority for the first time, through the website Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy (www.albert.rct.uk), launched in August 2019 to mark 200th anniversary of Albert’s birth.

The final tranche of archival material consists predominantly of Albert’s private and official papers and correspondence from the period 1841–61. These papers enrich our understanding of Albert’s official duties, detailing his work in the spheres of culture, education and philanthropy, as well illuminating aspects of his personal life, from family relationships to his passion for art and photography. The breadth of this material reflects the myriad responsibilities Albert assumed during his relatively short life as he strove to carve out a meaningful role for himself as Prince Consort. Excerpts from Albert’s now lost diaries, dating from 1841–1852, have also been digitally published. These were selected by his official biographer Theodore Martin shortly after the Prince’s death and record a variety of official visits and engagements, foreign and naval affairs, and the renovations of the royal residences.

Almost 1,000 glass plate negatives, including rare early examples by leading 19th-century photographers such as Roger Fenton, JJE Mayall and Leonida Caldesi, have also been added to Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy. Glass plate negatives show the entire composition of a photograph, often encompassing various props and background details that were ordinarily cropped or cut out of the subsequent prints. They are of particular interest to photo-historians, who use glass plate negatives to trace photographers’ working methods and their individual experimentations with the wet collodion process. These glass plates form part of a total of 10,000 photographs and prints collected or commissioned by Albert now published online.

Highlights of the newly-published papers and photographs