Wherefore art thou?
Victorian age British Monarch Queen Victoria, Vic, is famed for being the longest reigning British monarch of all time, reigning for a stunning 63 years! Writing nothing of the fact she is, to date, the longest serving female monarch the globe has enjoyed. As of September 2015 to be matched and exceeded by dear old Liz, the current Queen Elizabeth. Incase you wondered. Queen Vic and husband Prince Consort Albert, Al, embraced the arts supporting and instigating varied and far-reaching opportunities. 
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Personal suffering, as is the true reality of life, served to rob Vic of her beloved husband, Al, after just twenty two years together. Vic instigated, in a direct mark of respect and homage in memory of her late husband’s vision, a ‘Central Hall used to promote understanding and appreciation of the Arts and Sciences,’ a place for continuous pleasure for the many not the few. Al’s Royal Albert Hall opened on the 29th March 1871. To the year, exactly ten years after Al died, Al’s dream was realised, indeed continues to educate and enthral our shared souls in our globe.

Conceived and continuously used as a place of exhibitions, public meetings, scientific debates, music and award ceremonies therein lay some of the many beauties of the place. Its unreserved adaptability to society’s progressions, culture shifts, encapsulating in one beautifully crafted building, designed in coalition by Henry Cole, Francis Fowke, Henry Darracott Scott and contractors the Lucas Brothers, a wealth of continuous pleasures. Neatly situated, as was Al’s vision, surrounded by museums and places of learning in the bosom of his South Kensington estate.  
 
Funding for the land upon which the Royal Al’s Hall was built came directly from Al’s own entrepreneurship some twenty years earlier. Instigated after recommendation to make the next exhibition an international one by Henry Cole, a civil servant, inventor, a man credited with instigating the idea of sending greetings cards at Christmas. Sending the world’s first commercial Christmas card in 1843 the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park of 1851 opened to a stream of some six million attendees. Encapsulating the very best of British manufacturing in art and design education, tourism, international trade and relations it proved to be long-lasting and influential in terms of society’s progressions across the globe.
 
Queen Vic, pardon the UK’s long running serial drama Eastenders pun if you please, placed her name to the Alexandra Palace, opened in 1873. Vic’s first names are of course Alexandrina Victoria. The palace was home to a wealth of natural delights designed to be an environment-breeding education, pleasures and solace. Vic’s ‘People’s Palace’ lasted just two years before a raging fire gutted the Great Hall. (Incidentally a plague upon this house for many decades with the last of several fires being in 1980). Reopened on the 1st May 1875 the new Palace, spread over seven acres, housed the famous Willis Organ. In keeping with Al’s passion for accessibility to the arts and sciences the Willis Organ was a Victorian musical masterpiece much replicated.
 
 
Designed and built by Henry Willis, who was the best organ builder of his day, the aptly named organ physically symbolised Vic and Al’s passion for the arts. Considered the finest organ of its time, although smaller than the organ Willis built in 1871 for the Royal Al Hall, the organ itself was to suffer to all but destruction in forthcoming fires, only to be restored in first phase in 1990 by Henry four. By their very essence, and aptly located positions, the two organs embodied both the shared passions of Vic and Al. Accessibility to the many, not the few, to the arts, sciences and education serving as unifying objects of pleasure, intrigue and education within society, arguably community cohesion in Vic and Al style.  
 
By 1900 an Act of Parliament was passed asserting the trustees of the Peoples Palace must maintain both the Palace and Park “for the free use and recreation of the public forever.” Herein lays the message Al and Vic were arguably striving for and achieved with longevity. The right to easy access of education in arts and sciences. During the Great War the People’s Palace closed to be utilised as a place refugees could call a home, once again embodying the now late couple’s initial dreams of unifying society. . 
 
Both the Alexandra Palace and the Royal Albert Hall, separately two of Britain’s most treasured and integral places, are continuously forward thinking institutions in terms of arts and sciences education. Bought together in what is commonly known as the V&A Museum, also in London (UK). Founded one year after the Great Exhibition of 1852, the V&A museum chimes with Vic and Al’s modus operandi to ‘make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers.’ Originally named the Museum of Manufactures in line with Al’s exhibition the previous year, by 1899 the museum had had another two name changes and one new home. Queen Vic laid the first stone of a grand façade at its new home in Kensington, London ever faithfully supporting her long since departed husband in furtherance of his dreams. By the 21st Century we of course rejoice in the globally acknowledged acronym V & A, of course meaning the V & A museum. Like the People’s Palace for the People, Alexandra Palace, Al’s Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and so many other soul-unifying, globally leading institutions it is accurate to state had not Consort Prince Albert had such an all encompassing dream nearly 163 years ago, Britain would not now be the global hub of education in arts, sciences, manufacturing and culture it has been and is today. Accessible to the many not the few. 
 
Al and Vic, now both forever joined in union, continuously at the forefront of arts, sciences education and pleasure for the many not the few.

Entwined in each other’s souls and wider society as much in death as they were in life.
 

 

 

 
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