More than 17,500 of Prince Albert’s photographs, prints and private and official papers have been published online on a new website dedicated to Queen Victoria’s husband.
They aim 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.
Monday marks the 200th anniversary of Albert’s birth on August 26 1819.
Most of the papers and images have never been published before.
Among the documents available online as part of the Royal Collection Trust’s major digitisation project is a letter between Victoria and Albert on the day they became engaged.
Albert wrote: “I … can only believe that Heaven has sent down an angel to me, whose radiance is intended to brighten my life.”
He also wrote to his first cousin when she became Queen in 1837, wishing her a long, happy and glorious reign.
Victoria transcribed in her diaries how Albert played with his young children by putting a napkin around their waist and swinging them backwards and forwards between his legs.
She also sketched the scenario in her journals.
The Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy site – albert.rct.uk – includes notes and letters exchanged between the royal couple between 1828 to 1861.
It shows they corresponded in English until their engagement in 1839, after which they wrote to each other in German.
Victoria’s reminiscences of life with her beloved husband also feature, written the year after his death, with many of the photographs and works of art she commissioned to memorialise him.
Tim Knox, director of the Royal Collection, said: “It is fitting that in the year in which we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Prince Albert’s birth, we launch the website Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy, which reflects the contribution the Prince Consort made to 19th-century Britain and the wider world.
“We hope that the publication of material held in the Royal Archives and the Royal Collection and by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 will increase awareness and understanding of the achievements of this extraordinary man.”
Other items include Albert’s speech at the meeting of The Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and for the Civilisation of Africa in June 1840.
It marked a pivotal moment of a prominent member of the royal family giving their backing to the abolition of slavery, a practice the prince described as “the blackest stain upon civilised Europe”.
Images of jewellery and gifts exchanged between Victoria and Albert include a bracelet featuring tiny portrait photographs of their nine children, it was a birthday present from the prince to the Queen in 1854.
A mourning ring made in honour of Albert the year after his death features a microphotograph of the prince.
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.
He died unexpectedly from typhoid in 1861 when he was 42.
Victoria was so distraught she mourned him for the rest of her life, withdrawing from public view for a number of years.
The three-year digital initiative is due to be completed by the end of 2020, when a total of 23,500 items relating to Albert will have been uploaded.