Albert Memorial review
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I wonder how we're going to be remembered when we die? Probably not with a 176 foot memorial. We'll just be a dog-eared photo at the back of someone's school album -- one of those pictures that have slipped out behind the crumpled-up carrier bags under the stairs. We mere mortals only have a choice of two memorials when we die: a gravestone covered in weeds, or a photograph covered in dust. When you're famous you can add a third type: a stone statue covered in bird droppings. But Albert was so beloved he got a fourth one: a gothic monument covered in gold. This is the kind of thing they build for saints, kings and conquerers. When he died at the early age of forty-two Queen Victoria was so distraught that she commissioned a £120,000 extravaganza with marble statues and mosaics (£10 million in today's money). It's more like a shrine than a statue. It has all four corners of the British empire on it, and every famous painter, poet, artist and architect from Homer to Turner to Wren.
There are 169 people chiselled on the Albert Memorial: musicians and poets on the south side (facing the Royal Albert Hall), famous painters on the east, sculptors on the west, and architects on the north. I've decided we're going to have a game of I-Spy. Let me pick a person from each side and then we'll see if you can find them (the names are written above and below the figures, but you'll have to polish your eyes to make them out because some of them are quite hard to see): William Shakespeare, JMW Turner, Michelangelo and Christopher Wren.
The golden statue of Albert in the centre has got a bit of a Tutankhamen's curse attached to it because every sculptor involved in this gold mould died before they saw it finished. Baron Carlo Marochetti dropped dead before he even got the design done. John Henry Foley then took over and promptly dropped dead as well, one year before they lifted it into position.
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