Monday, 20 March 2017

Wearing Prince Albert's Ring; Queen Victoria's widowhood and the Albert Memorial

"So, Albert goes with the Queen to Windsor after the [wedding] ceremony?"
"He'll go further before morning."
"How so?"
"Why, he'll go in at Bushy, pass Virginia Water, on through Maidenhead, and leave Staines behind."

So went one of the many jokes following the wedding of Queen Victoria to Franz August Karl Albrecht Immanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, or Prince Albert as he became known to his English subjects. Victoria has initially been offered the choice of Albert or his older brother Ernst as potential consorts in 1837 when as an 18 year old she ascended the throne. But she was immediately smitten by the ‘extremely handsome’ piano playing Albert. As she was Queen, protocol demanded that the proposal of marriage came from her. Victorian values were a long way off establishing themselves in 1840 and the Queen of England proposing to and then marrying a penniless foreigner offered the wits of England a chance to excel themselves in scoffing, sneering and ribaldry.

“I say, I say, I say what are Prince Albert’s wages?”
“I don’t know, what are Prince Albert’s wages?”
“A quarter of a crown a day and a whole sovereign at night….”

“I say, I say, I say why is the Queen England’s  most famous composer?”
“I don’t know, why is the Queen England’s most famous composer?”
“Because her overtures to Prince Albert are known all over the world.”

The MP Dillon Browne was buttonholed at Ben Morgan’s in Maiden Lane about the controversial Corn Laws which banned grain imports into Britain and kept the price of bread artificially high.  Someone eventually asked “What is the use of all this botheration about the Corn Laws? Has not the little Queen - the saints preserve her - settled the question by opening her port for the reception of foreign seed?"

Albert had the last laugh though; Victoria was devoted to him and despite her later reputation the pair must have had a reasonably satisfactory sex life to produce nine children. Even the wedding night was a success, Victoria wrote in her diary “I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again!”

She was, of course, bereft when Albert died at the age of 42. His most enduring traits were immortalised in the phallic Albert Memorial, the most erotic tribute a widow ever made to a lost husband.  The Memorial statue of Albert is by John Henry Foley and Thomas Brock.

The Albert Memorial: even the sculptural rendering of the four continents is erotically charged.

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