Statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Queen’s Square

Written by Phil Donnelly, President of The Bouddi Society

‘Queens Statue, Entrance to Hyde Park, Sydney’, c.1880-1900, Glass Plate Negative, Full Plate, Henry King [Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, https://ma.as/30794]

For many years the statues of Victoria and Albert faced each other across Macquarie Street, the Queen’s statue in front of St James Church and Albert the Good in front of Hyde Park Barracks. This alignment reflected the opinion of historians that the marriage between Victoria and Albert was one of the great historical love matches.[1]

In 1888 Queen Victoria’s Statue was erected in front of St James Church before a huge crowd.[2] Albert’s statue was already in the vicinity at the northern end of Hyde Park.[3] At the time the representation of marital devotion through the happy circumstance that the statues were placed close together met with general and widespread approval.[4] The poignant relationship between the two was reinforced when Prince Albert’s statue was moved to the front of Hyde Park Barracks, directly opposite the Queen’s.[5]

And then, in 1987 during some refurbishment works, Queen Victoria’s statue was inexplicably turned ninety degrees so that it now looks down Macquarie Street and, of course, away from Albert.[6] This was a deliberate decision by Sydney City Council so that “Queen Victoria’s position is such that she is dominant and commanding and Albert is subservient.”[7]

Besides this reasoning being, in today’s mores, anachronistic, it is also historically misleading, since, besides a loving relationship, the pair worked together in a very practical partnership.[8] The construct of dominance and subservience would, I suspect, have been anathema to them.

On the other hand, having the statues face each other provides context and invites us to contemplate a very human aspect of Victoria’s life, an aspect not hinted at elsewhere, of a passionate woman who was not only the sovereign of a great empire, but was also a wife and mother.

I am petitioning Council to return Victoria to face her husband.

Phil Donnelly can be contacted by email or you can support this campaign by signing his Change.Org petition.

References:

[1] See, for instance, Chapter 10 ‘Virago in Love’, in Julia Baird, Victoria: The Queen, Harper Collins, 2016.

[2] Adelaide Observer, 28 January 1888, p.37.

[3] Evening News (Sydney), 19 June 1908, p.8.

[4] Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 4 August 1881, p.3; Adelaide Observer, 28 January 1888, p.37; The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 6 August 1881, p.248.

[5] Correspondence with Sydney City Council’s Public Art Advisory Council, 3 March 2020.

[6] Ibid.

[7]  The Curator of Hyde Park Barracks quoted in correspondence, Ibid.

[8] Julia Baird, op. cit., Chapter 14 ‘King to All Intents’.

Posted Online: 30 March 2021