Albert, Prince Consort

b. 26 August 1819 The Rosenau, near Coburg, Germany
d. 14 December 1861 Windsor Castle, England
German/British polymath and Prince Consort to Queen Victoria.
Albert received a sound education in the arts and sciences, carefully designed to fit him for a role as consort to the future Queen Victoria. After their marriage in 1840, Albert threw himself into the task of establishing his position as, eventually, Prince Consort and uncrowned king of England. By his undoubted intellectual gifts, unrelenting hard work and moral rectitude, Albert moulded the British constitutional monarchy into the form it retains to this day. The purchase in 1845 of the Osborne estate in the Isle of Wight provided not only the growing royal family with a comfortable retreat from London and public life, but Albert with full scope for his abilities as architect and planner. With Thomas Cubitt, the eminent engineer and contractor, Albert erected at Osborne one of the most remarkable buildings of the nineteenth century. He went on to design the house and estate at Balmoral in Scotland, another notable creation.
Albert applied his abilities as architect and planner in the promotion of such public works as the London sewer system and, in practical form, the design of cottages for workers, such as those in south London, as well as those on the royal estates. Albert's other main contribution to technology was as educationist in a broad sense. In 1847, he was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University. He was appalled at the low standards and narrow curriculum prevailing there and at Oxford. He was no mere figurehead, but took a close and active interest in the University's affairs. With his powerful influence behind them, the reforming fellows were able to force measures to raise standards and widen the curriculum to take account, in particular, of the rapid progress in the natural sciences. Albert was instrumental in ending the lethargy of centuries and laying the foundations of the modern British university system.
In 1847 the Prince became Secretary of the Royal Society of Arts. With Henry Cole, the noted administrator who shared Albert's concern for the arts, he promoted a series of exhibitions under the auspices of the Society. From these grew the idea of a great exhibition of the products of the decorative and industrial arts. It was Albert who decided that its scope should be international. As Chairman of the organizing committee, by sheer hard work he drove the project through to a triumphant conclusion. The success of the Exhibition earned it a handsome profit for which Albert had found a use even before it closed. The proceeds went towards the purchase of a site in South Kensington, for which he drew up a grand scheme for a complex of museums and colleges for the education of the people in the sciences and the arts. This largely came to fruition and South Kensington today is a fitting memorial to the Prince Consort's wisdom and concern for the public good.
Further Reading
Sir Theodore Martin, 1875–80, The Life of His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, 5 vols, London; German edn 1876; French edn 1883 (the classic life of the Prince).
R.R.James, 1983, Albert, Prince Consort: A Biography, London: Hamish Hamilton (the standard modern biography).
L.R.Day, 1989, "Resources for the study of the history of technology in the Science Museum Library", IATUL Quarterly 3:122–39 (provides a short account of the rise of South Kensington and its institutions).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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