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The Great Exhibition of 1851


This day is one of the greatest & most glorious days of our lives, with which, to my pride & joy the name of my dearly beloved Albert is for ever associated!


Queen Victoria’s effusive journal entry for 1 May 1851 did not exaggerate the significance of the inauguration of the Great Exhibition. The aim of this exceptionally ambitious project was to showcase British industry alongside that of the rest of the world, with other contributors including Russia, America, Spain and Turkey. It was a huge success, encompassing over 100,000 exhibits and attracting more than six million people during its five-month run. Victoria herself visited in excess of 30 times. The exhibition took place in an innovative, purpose-built glass building in Hyde Park, London, which was nicknamed the ‘Crystal Palace’.


Both Victoria and Albert were eager to have this temporary spectacle captured in a permanent visual record. They commissioned two favourite artists, Joseph Nash and Louis Haghe, to paint 49 watercolours that were then reproduced in two volumes published in 1854. This and several other publication projects supported by Albert used chromolithography, a new technology of colour printing in keeping with the ethos of the exhibition.  

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.