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Prince Albert’s papers and collections to be published for first time

The digitisation project by the Royal Collection Trust will be completed by 2020.

The papers and collections of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert are to be published for the first time.

A major new digitisation project by the Royal Collection Trust will see some 23,500 items uploaded online, ranging from Albert’s official letters and private papers, to the thousands of photographs he commissioned.

It aims to shed new light on Albert’s contribution as consort, unofficial private secretary, and guide and mentor to some of the greatest national projects of his day.

Letter written by Prince Albert to the President of the Board of Trade in 1849, showing his close involvement in the development of the idea to host the Great Exhibition of 1851. (Royal Archives/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018/PA)

Oliver Urquhart Irvine, librarian and assistant keeper of the Queen’s archives, said: “The Prince Albert Digitisation Project will increase understanding of material held in the Royal Archives, Royal Collection and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and enable a comprehensive study of the life, work and legacy of Prince Albert on a scale that does justice to his contribution to 19th century Britain and the world.”

Mr Urquhart Irvine said the resource will “transform academic and public access to this unparalleled collection, and will allow a fresh assessment of this influential man”.

The three year initiative is due to be completed by the end of 2020 and the first tranche will be published in the summer of 2019 to mark the bicentenary of Albert’s birth.

Material will include catalogues of Albert’s private library, inventories of paintings commissioned or collected by Albert, a study collection of more than 5,000 prints and photographs after the works of Raphael, and a collection of 10,000 early photographs collected and commissioned by Albert.

Albert and Victoria were enthusiastic supporters of the new medium of photography and in 1853 became patrons of the recently established Photographic Society.

From the early 1850s, Albert commissioned photographs to document royal household life, family gatherings and visits from important guests.

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children at their seaside retreat on the Isle of Wight, photographed by Leonida Caldesi in 1857 (Royal Collection Trust/ Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018/PA)

Albert married Queen Victoria in 1840, and was known for his interest in education and science, and for being a supporter of industry, technology and design.

A letter, which will be among the items digitised on the Royal Collection Trust website, shows that he wrote to the prime minister in 1848, when Britain was hit by a recession, and expressed concern for protesters who gathered on Kennington Common demanding political reform.

Commenting on a decision to reduce the building works at Westminster Palace and Buckingham Palace and lay-off workers, Albert declared: “Surely this is not the time for the Tax Payers to economise upon the Working Classes!”

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