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Prince Albert's Medal

  • Object:

    Medal

  • Place of origin:

    London (designed and made)

  • Date:

    1844 (designed)
    1845 (dated)
    1852 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Wyon, William, born 1795 - died 1851 (designer and maker)
    Albert Prince Consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born 1819 - died 1861 (commissioner)

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Sir Henry Cole K.C.B.

  • Museum number:

    38041800799231

  • Gallery location:

    National Art Library, Room 85, landing, case CA/4

This is a gold version of the Personal Medal for HRH Prince Albert and was commissioned privately by the Prince from William Wyon, Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint, in 1844.

Prince Albert’s Medal appears here as part of a group of seven medals in a Presentation Set given to Henry Cole (the first Director of the South Kensington Museum, the forerunner of the V&A, and one of the main organisers of the Great Exhibition on behalf of Prince Albert) following the Great Exhibition of 1851. The standard Presentation Sets of medals for the Great Exhibition were made up of the five official medals, and normal recipients (such as the Commissioners who organised the Great Exhibition under the presidency of Prince Albert, together with a number of other Senior Officials involved in the Great Exhibition) would not have received the Prince’s medal as part of their set.

Henry Cole received the Prince Albert Medal from the Prince as a memorial to their achievements together and as ‘a token of remembrance of our long communion in this work’. The Medal was bequeathed to the Museum, along with a letter from the Prince awarding it to Henry Cole, in 1883.

Physical description

Gold medal with obverse (front) depicting the profile bust of Prince Albert, facing right. On the reverse in profile facing left, a naked classicised figure of St George is mounted on a rearing horse with flowing mane. He wears a Roman helmet, with a billowing cloak over his right shoulder and holds a spear poised above the dragon's open jaws.

Place of Origin

London (designed and made)

Date

1844 (designed)
1845 (dated)
1852 (made)

Artist/maker

Wyon, William, born 1795 - died 1851 (designer and maker)
Albert Prince Consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born 1819 - died 1861 (commissioner)

Dimensions

Diameter: 56 mm

Object history note

This is a gold version of the Personal Medal for HRH Prince Albert. He commissioned it privately from William Wyon, Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint, in 1844. Albert specified a St George design for the reverse and sat for his profile bust on the obverse (front). The medal’s St George and the Dragon design is loosely based on an earlier sovereign coin design by Wyon’s colleague at the Royal Mint, the Italian Benedetto Pistrucci, but bears a classical liveliness and realism in details such as the veins on the horse. Although this reverse design is neo-classical, the gothic script used in the inscription reflects the contemporary neo-gothic style (which was beginning to rival neo-classicism in popularity). A wax on slate model by Wyon related to this St George design is in the British Museum collections. He exhibited his models for this medal in 1844, and the finished medal in 1845, both at the Royal Academy.

Prince Albert’s Medal appears here as part of a group of seven medals in a Presentation Set given to Henry Cole following the Great Exhibition of 1851. The standard Presentation Sets of medals for the Great Exhibition were made up of the five official medals, and normal recipients would not have received the Prince’s medal as part of their set. A number of these standard commemorative Presentation Sets of medals were given to the Commissioners (the Members of the Royal Commission, established in 1850 by Queen Victoria to organise the Great Exhibition of 1851, and actively presided over by Prince Albert) and a number of other Senior Officials involved in organising the Great Exhibition, and were also presented to the governments or rulers of every country to exhibit displays in the ‘Crystal Palace’. Very few individuals received additional medals and Henry Cole’s Presentation Set of seven medals may well be unique.

Henry Cole was the first Director of the South Kensington Museum (the forerunner of the V&A) and was one of the main organisers of the Great Exhibition on behalf of Prince Albert. A letter from the Prince to Henry Cole dated 15 October 1851 (the closing date of the Exhibition) informs him he will receive this Prince Albert Medal as a memorial to their achievements together, and this letter was bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum in 1883 by the executors of Henry Cole’s will, alongside the medal. The medal was not actually issued until 1852 because of the production delays that affected the distribution of all the Great Exhibition medals, also referred to in the Prince’s correspondence, which further highlights the importance of Cole’s contribution:

‘I hoped to day after the happy close of the Exhibition to have presented you a Medal a token of remembrance of our long communion in this work, but am obliged to use your words: “that it will be given out when the arrangements for it shall be completed,” which I hope however will be soon. You have been one of the few who originated the design, became its exponent to the Public and fought its battles in adversity & belong now to those, who share in its triumphs; & it must be pleasing to you to reflect how much you have contributed to them by your untiring exertions as it is to me to acknowledge my sense of them.-
Believe me always
Yours truly
Albert’

Windsor Castle
October 15. 1851.

Henry Cole was also dubbed a Companion of the Order of the Bath by Queen Victoria on the closing of the Exhibition in recognition for his services.

An illustration of the obverse and reverse of this medal appears in the Illustrated London News of 1852, including a notice about its award to ‘all members of the organising committee’ of the Great Exhibition. Henry Cole, Charles Dilke and several other Great Exhibition officials were presented with Prince Albert's gold medal.

Descriptive line

Medal, Prince Albert's Medal depicting Prince Albert and St George and the Dragon, struck gold, by William Wyon, London, dated 1845

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.83 HP-D001 Another version
Allen, Leslie Lewis, The World's Show: Coincraft's Catalogue of Crystal Palace Medals and Tokens, 1851-1936, London: 2000
no. 2204 (another version)
Brown, Lawrence. British Historical Medals 1837-1901 - Vol II, The Reign of Queen Victoria. London: 1987

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Striking

Categories

Coins & Medals; National Art Library

Production Type

Limited edition

Collection

National Art Library

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