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Prince Albert, Prince Consort (1819-61)

Prince Albert was the second son of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. He married Queen Victoria (his first cousin) in 1840. Prince Albert was created Prince Consort in 1857 and died at Windsor Castle in 1861. His patronage of the arts in Britain led to the founding of several national museums and greatly enhanced the Royal Collection.

Prince Albert was university-educated in Brussels and Bonn, and had also attended lectures on art history. He travelled in Italy and met several of leading German artists and sculptors working there. His lifelong interest in and patronage of German neoclassical sculpture dates back to his time in Italy in the late 1830s. After his marriage to Queen Victoria in 1840, Albert often presented sculpture as gifts to his wife, and he was a keen collector and patron of British sculptors such as William Theed also.

Like Queen Victoria, Prince Albert was a proficient amateur artist and an inspired designer. There are over 500 of his works still in the Royal Collection. He personally oversaw the design of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, with his artistic advisor Ludwig Grüner, and of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. He patronized the creation of the beautiful Royal Dairy at Frogmore, decorated with Minton tiles and fountains.

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria frequented the Royal Academy, buying artists’ work at exhibition and supporting a range of talent and contemporary painting. Albert also collected early Italian, German and Flemish paintings, including works by Duccio and Cranach and he greatly admired works by Raphael. To this end, he commissioned a survey of all knwon works by Raphael, to create a reference guide for art history students.  The prevailing taste of the time was for later High Renaissance and Baroque painting, but Prince Albert enjoyed works from the fifteenth century and earlier too. Queen Victoria gave many of his early German paintings to the National Gallery in 1863.

Prince Albert chaired a Royal Commission for the mural decorative schemes at the new Palace of Westminster in the 1840s, and subsequently employed some of those artists at Osborne. Another more famous Royal Commission was for the Great Exhibition in 1851, designed to show the best of British and foreign arts, design and manufacture. The Great Exhibition was a huge success, drawing crowds from all over Britain and beyond, to marvel at the works on show. The lasting legacy of the Great Exhibition was the founding of the South Kensington group of museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum for design and the decorative arts.

Prince Albert instigated the reorganisation and more systematic cataloguing of the Royal Collection, and furnished the Print Room at Windsor for the storage of works of art on paper. He was a crucial early patron of photography in Britain, commissioning among others, one of the greatest photographers of the period, Roger Fenton. A site dedicated to his collecting can be viewed here.


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.