The tour of the Prince Albert archive a was arranged to celebrate a major new digitisation project called Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy by the Royal Collection Trust – the body which preserves and catalogues the royal family’s massive photographic archive. The new microsite dedicated to Albert was launched in August and contains more than 17,500 photographs, prints and documents. By the end of 2020 some 23,500 items from the Royal Archives, the Royal Collection and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 will be published on the site, so it has been a mammoth task.
Albert, who was born in the duchy of Coburg in 1819 and died tragically young at 42, was a progressive thinker for his time and class, and a passionate champion of the new discipline of photography for recording and artistic purposes. As well as encouraging numerous portraits of himself and his family, some of which were published as an early public relations exercise, he felt it was an ideal way to record new technology and inventions, or encourage popular appreciation of great art.
Indeed, he was instrumental in setting up a photographic project to record images of all works by and after Raphael, whom Albert held to be the doyen of Renaissance artists. This project was intended for public good rather than private enjoyment and as a resource to inspire artists and designers.
A patron of the RPS along with Queen Victoria, Albert collected and commissioned over 10,000 images during his lifetime. AP is honoured to celebrate the legacy of this champion of photography and hugely important national figure. We hope you enjoy a selection of the images below.
All picture credits Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty the Queen
After Roger Fenton, Prince Albert, May 1854. An 1889 copy of the original. Queen Victoria commissioned a set of private family photographs to be taken by Roger Fenton at Buckingham Palace in May 1854, including a portrait of Albert gazing purposefully at the camera, his legs crossed, in front of a temporary backdrop that had been created.
Roger Fenton, Queen Victoria with her four eldest children, 8 Feb 1854, c.1880 copy of original. This touching domestic and maternal portrait, taken by Roger Fenton in 1854, shows the Queen draped in a tartan shawl, a pair of scissors tied at her waist, and clutching Princess Alice tightly.
William Edward Kilburn, The Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, 10 April 1848. Prince Albert’ s concern for the working classes is reflected in his purchase of daguerreotypes of the Chartist meeting at Kennington Common. Albert later spoke at a Chartist meeting about the royal family’s sympathy and concern for the working classes. In addition, many experts believe this is the first photograph of a crowd.
William Bambridge, The Royal Family at Osborne, 24 May 1859. This family portrait was taken on Queen Victoria’s birthday and featured in the third volume of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s series of ‘Portraits of Royal Children’ albums. They compiled five such albums during their life together.