A Guest Post – “Better it is to Get Wisdom than Gold.”

By Guest Blogger Mandi


Images and the journey itself courtesy of amitours.co.uk

Recently I took a ride in a cab through the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I was tasked with producing photos of the taxi in action; an out and about photo shoot. South Kensington in particular is an area I felt I was already very familiar with having gotten to know it well during my time at the Royal College of Art, where I’d studied two years previous. I was quite wrong! It’s quite interesting how used to your surrounding environment you get without ever actually paying it any particular attention. At the time I would walk around with my mind fixed on a destination, not necessarily absorbing myself with what was around me in the present.

I already understood the anatomy of the area. The Royal college of Art, the Royal College of Music, the Imperial College, the V&A, the Natural History Museum (above), the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. To me these were just all convenient nearby attractions. I had never thought of the reasoning for their close proximity until researching the area for the photo shoot. So here we are, the reason.


In the summer of 1851 the Great Exhibition brought a celebration of creativity – the best of human creativity – to this small borough of London. Pulling together two realms that previously could not have been further apart: Science and Art. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum
The reconciliation between the two began at The Great Exhibition in nearby Hyde Park, then shortly after Prince Albert pushed for this area to be bought by the Royal Commission with the profits made. This area was then built up to encourage a community where science and art could coexist, if not crossover. The nearby museums could aid the practitioners of science and art alike.

Of course this was all built up overtime and a lot of the original institutions have long since vanished.  Interestingly the central axis of the Imperial College, the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert memorial are all aligned, appearing set to stay. This slight detail that goes unnoticed to the everyday visitor as it is only viewable from the Queen’s Balcony (rarely open to the public). The axis ties together the marriage of art and science: an arts institution, a science institution to the facilitator: Price Albert.

The Albert Memorial

“Better it is to Get Wisdom than Gold”

The memorial was commissioned ten years after The Great Exhibition because of Prince Albert’s sudden death in 1861. The area was affectionately named Albertropolis, although this is more or less forgotten these days as the area has become known as South Kensington. It’s a shame as we have a lot to owe him. Prince Albert was an advocate of self learning and encouraged the opening of museums and libraries to the public – before which these were places of the academic, the researcher. This was a truly ground breaking endeavour; one which we now take for granted.

Without Prince Albert I may have not received the education I did in one of the world’s most densely populated and successful cultural quarters. 
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The Wellington Connection – Walmer Castle

Walmer Castle, Kent

 From The History of Walmer and Walmer Castle By Charles Robert Stebbing Elvin (1894)
The quiet unostentations life which the Duke of Wellington led at Walmer, has been familiarized to us by Earl Stanhope in his “Conversations.” But one trait must be briefly alluded to, namely, the Duke’s love for children, which was evinced in a characteristic manner. We are told by Lord Stanhope that, in the autumn of 1837, Wellington had staying with him at Walmer Castle, two little children of Lord and Lady Robert Grosvenor, a boy and girl, and these chicks having expressed a desire to receive letters through the post—it was before the days of the penny post—the Duke used to write to them every morning a letter containing good advice for the day, which was regularly delivered when the post came in. He used also constantly to play fooball with the little boy upon the ramparts.
It was in the October of this year that poor Haydon spent some days at the castle, having come down at the Duke’s request, to paint his portrait for certain gentlemen at Liverpool. Haydon relates in his Diary, how charmed he was with the Duke’s playfulness with “six dear healthy noisy children,” no less than with his unostentatious reverence at the parish church on Sunday.  . . . . It is further related of the Duke of Wellington, that he sometimes took out with him, in his walks, a number of sovereigns and half-sovereigns, each suspended from a red or blue ribbon, and that when he came upon a group of children, he would present them with one of these, either red or blue, according as they declared themselves when interrogated, to be for the army or navy. The Duke’s early habits are well known, and an old gentlemen still living, tells me that when he was a boy at Walmer, he and his school-fellows used frequently in the summer, to be taken down to the sea near Walmer Castle, at six o’clock in the morning, to bathe, and the Duke would often come on the beach and converse with them.
In addition to children, the Duke also entertained more mature guests at the Castle
The Duke of Wellington was repeatedly honoured with visits from Royalty, during his occupancy of Walmer Castle. Thus Earl Stanhope mentions in his Conversations his meeting Prince George of Cambridge (the present Duke) at dinner at Walmer Castle, on October 14th, 1833; and on October 17th, 1837, records a luncheon at the Castle to meet the Princess Augusta of Saxony.
From the same source, also, we learn that two years later the Duke of Cambridge (father of Prince George above-mentioned), and first Duke of Cambridge with the Duchess and Princess Augusta, spent five days at Walmer Castle, namely, from October 3rd to October 8th. And how they were entertained we are also informed. On the evening after their arrival, there was a dinner party of eighteen persons, followed by a concert, for which the Duke of Wellington had engaged several vocalists from London, and to which he invited most of the neighbours: another dinner given on the 6th Oct., was followed by a larger party still, and a concert in the evening: while on the last day of their sojourn, October 7th, a great public breakfast given by the Duke in their honour, at 2 p.m., was attended by from a hundred to a hundred and twenty persons, many of whom came from Ramsgate and Dover; and in the evening there was another concert and large party.

But the chief interest centres in the visits of our present beloved Queen, who first became acquainted with Walmer in 1835 ; in the autumn of which year, she being then the Princess Victoria and a girl of sixteen, paid a visit to the Duke of Wellington and lunched at the castle, with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the King and Queen of the Belgians.
Leopold, King of the Belgians
The following account of this visit has been preserved in a letter by the then Lady Burghersh to her husband :—” The King and Queen of the Belgians arrived exactly at 2 in the same carriage with the Dnchess of Kent and Princess Victoria. The Duke of Wellington and I went to meet them on the drawbridge, and brought them up the outside staircase to the ramparts (where nearly all the company were already assembled), the lower battery firing a salute. The scene was beautiful; the whole of the beach in front of the castle and the roads leading to Deal and to the village, were filled with people; all the colours hoisted at the different places along the coast and on the ships, of which, fortunately, there were quantities in the Downs. The only drawback was that we were disappointed of getting a band from Canterbury, so there was no music. After walking about the ramparts and speaking with the company, the King and Queen went with the Duke round the garden, but the Princess Victoria had a little cold; so I staid in the drawing room with her and the Duchess of Kent, and baby was brought in and behaved like a little angel, and was much admired. She was sent for again afterwards to see the Queen. As the crowd outside were eager to see Princess Victoria, I asked the Duchess of Kent if she thought she might come out for a moment to shew herself, and I fetched my ermine tippet for her, which she put on, and came out on the ramparts and was very much cheered.”
Seven years later we find her Majesty again at Walmer Castle; being no longer a girl, but a Queen and a mother. It was on the morning of Thursday, November 10th, 1842, that the Royal party, consisting of the Queen, Prince Albert, and th
eir two children, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, left Windsor Castle, accompanied by a distinguished suite, en route for Walmer Castle; where they arrived the same day escorted by a troop of the 7th Hussars, then quartered at Canterbury, and with a guard of honour furnished by the 51st Infantry. With the exception of the journey from Slough to Paddington, the whole distance was accomplished by road; Her Majesty being everywhere greeted with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of loyalty and esteem. On the outskirts of Upper Deal, the Royal Party were met by the Duke of Wellington, who afterwards rode on to receive Her Majesty and the Prince at Walmer Castle, which was then placed entirely at their disposal; the Duke proceeding to Dover to take up his quarters during the royal visit.
Although the accommodation at the castle was somewhat restricted, being much less in those days than at present, no effort was spared to ensure the comfort of the royal guests and their suite. Two of the principal rooms in the castle had been thrown into one, for the sleeping apartment of Her Majesty and the Prince; while the portion of the fortress appropriated for the royal nursery, consisted of four rooms in “the outworks or north tower,” with the windows facing in a northerly direction. Viscount Sydney, as the Lord in Waiting, and Lady Portman as the Lady in Waiting, as well as the Honble. C. A. Murray, Master of the Household, and others, occupied some other rooms; while the rest of the guests were accommodated in a large house about three quarters of a mile away.

The Launch of The Thunderer, 1831
Copyright Port Cities London

The inhabitants of the whole district seem to have vied with each other in their efforts to do honour to the royal visitors; the illuminations throughout the neighbourhood being most brilliant. And on the following morning, when the royal standard was hoisted on Walmer Castle, the Thunderer manned yards, and saluted Her Majesty with twenty-one guns. The royal party remained at the castle nearly a month; and it was while here that the Queen received by special messenger from Downing Street, the news of the recapture of Ghuznee and Cabul, and the rescue of the prisoners.

An incident took place during this visit, which displays, in a remarkable degree, the natural goodness of heart and kindliness of disposition, which have always been shewn by her Majesty in her intercourse with her people. The Queen and Prince Consort were one day walking on the shore in the direction of Kingsdown, when they were driven by a sudden shower to take refuge in an old boat-house, which, besides being a place for storing boat’s gear, served also as a dwelling for an aged boatman—Thomas Erridge—and his wife; who, although they failed to recognize their visitors, readily offered them such mean accommodation as the place afforded. The royal pair were soon provided with a seat, consisting of some spars placed upon empty water-casks and covered with a spare sail; and there they sat and conversed with their simple-minded hosts, until the shower ceased ; and the latter were afterwards rewarded for their rude, but kindly hospitality, with a pension, with which the Queen provided them for the rest of their days.
The last meeting between Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington, took place at Walmer Castle, on a similar occasion to the last, and only two years later. It was on August 17th, 1852, a month before the Duke’s death: the royal squadron having anchored in the Downs for one night, with the Queen and the Prince Consort en route for Belgium, His Royal Highness landed in a small boat from the Victoria and Albert, and paid a visit to the castle, where he had a long conversation with the aged warrior and statesman.
Whilst the Duke took excellent care of his many guests, he seems to have been rather more lenient in his care of the Castle gardens –
The next considerable improvement to the (Castle) grounds was made by the Earl of Liverpool (Warden before Wellington), who added the two meadows— since thrown into one—with the express proviso that, in the event of the office of Lord Warden being ever abolished, they should revert to the representatives of his own family.
The Duke of Wellington did not improve the grounds: on the contrary, he seems to have allowed them to fall into a state that would very much shock the professional gardener. But then the Duke’s gardener was not a professional, but a veteran sergeant of the Peninsular Army, and a Waterloo man, named Townsend, who received his appointment to the post of gardener at Walmer Castle under the following peculiar circumstances. The story goes, that shortly after the Duke became Lord Warden, he received a letter from Sergeant Townsend, complaining that he had been discharged from the service without a pension: that thereupon he immediately replied, “Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington would be happy to see Sergeant Townsend at Apsley House -on Friday at noon “: that on the interview taking place, his Grace inquired, “Do you know anything about gardening?” and, on receiving a negative reply, added, “Then learn, learn, and come here this day fortnight at the same hour.” The sergeant withdrew, and when, in obedience to orders, he appeared the second time at Apsley House, was greeted with—”Take the place of gardener at Walmer Castle; and on replying, “But I know nothing about gardening,” was cut short by the Duke with “Nor do I, nor do I, take your place at once.”
HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Lord Warden for 24 years
 and spent many summers in residence at Walmer Castle.

Happy Birthday to Prince Albert

Prince Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born August 26, 1819. His wife, Queen Victoria, was born on the 24th of May in that year. They were first cousins.

Right: Prince Albert by Charles Brocky, 1841

The exhibition Victoria and Albert in Love can be seen in the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, until October 31, 2010.

The jewelry, musical compositions, drawings, paintings and furniture exchanged by the royal couple make an interesting statement about the depth of their love and commitment. Many of the items were birthday gifts given to the Prince by the Queen.

Rupert Friend (right) as Prince Albert in the film The Young Victoria. The costumes and settings were sumptuous, but the story left a bit to be desired by those of us who paid attention to the details! 

John Lucas painted Prince Albert in 1841, left. 

Prince Albert, right, by Winterhalter, in 1842.  Albert had an excellent private education. With his older brother Ernest, he was tutored at home and later attended the University of Bonn. He excelled in fencing and riding, and traveled in Italy.  Almost from birth, many considered the possibility of uniting the cousins, and King Leopold encouraged the marriage.  Victoria and Albert met several times and she was eventually quite taken with him, but after she took the throne at age 18 in 1837, she was in no hurry to wed.
After her coronation, however, she wrote to Uncle Leopold: “Albert’s beauty is most striking, and he so amiable and unaffected — in short very fascinating.” Louis Auchincloss in his Persons of Consequence: Queen Victoria and Her Circle (1979) observes: “A principal industry of the German States in the nineteenth century was the production of marriageable princes and princesses.”
The wedding took place on February 10, 1840.  Albert’s role in the realm was unclear, and it changed, evolving over the next few years until he became very influential and quite popular (though only after his death was his popularity recognized by most in the government).  Albert and Victoria became the parents of nine children.

At right is a family portrait, also by Winterhalter, of the family in 1846.

One of Albert’s greatest achievements was the Great Exhibition of 1851.  As a supporter of science and technology, he was particularly influential upon industrial advancements of the day. In addition, he single-handedly modernized and revamped the running of the royal palaces and the financial administration of the monarchy.  

Prince Albert died of typhoid fever at 10:50 p.m. on 14 December 1861 in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle, in the presence of the Queen and five of their nine children, leaving the Queen devastated. Though she lived on until 1901, Victoria never shed her widow’s weeds.