A Prince’s Papers: Session 3

Prince Albert and photography

Read the introduction page for background on this workshop series.

As you will have begun to sense from his speeches, in which frequent mention is made of 'Arts & Science', Prince Albert took a rich interest in the development, cross-pollination and integration of these fields. This interest can be felt very strongly in his engagement with the then-nascent discipline of photography, which had application in scientific examination, in artistic creation, in the sharing of knowledge, and in the visual recording of things.

As an active patron of photography, alongside his wife, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert played a significant part in its development. In 1842, Prince Albert was photographed by William Constable in his Brighton studio. The resulting daguerreotype is the earliest surviving photograph of a member of the British royal family. Beyond the stimulus provided by Albert’s own diverse collecting activities, the royal couple were joint patrons of the (later Royal) Photographic Society, soon after its foundation in 1853.  Albert’s prolific collecting throughout the 1850s was aided by Dr Ernst Becker, the Prince’s Librarian and private secretary. Later tutor to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (1841-1910), and Prince Alfred (1844-1900), Becker also taught the royal children photography. 

Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy encompasses the Prince's taste for and activity in the diverse aspects of photography as well as providing a unique access point to over eight thousand photographs by pioneering nineteenth-century photographers. Spend a little time perusing the collection, and getting a sense of how this emerging form and its different aspects must have excited contemporary viewers and practitioners, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria amongst them.

Materials for this session

The materials for this session have been selected to give a sense of the breadth and depth of involvement with photography and photographers, and some of the contexts in which those interactions took place. Choose a document from the following to transcribe and explore. Where a little further context seems needed, I have written a brief note.

1. All of: Letter from Dr Ernst Becker to the publishers Colnaghi regarding the presentation of photographs in the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition publication.

This letter is responding to a collection of photographs of the Art Treasures Exhibition that took place in Manchester in 1857. Beyond its quality of spectacle, the Exhibition served a didactic purpose and was intended to raise the spiritual intellectual interests of its attendees, demonstrating the edifying qualities of art and art history.

2. Image 109 from: Translations of extracts of letters from Albert, Prince Consort to Princess Victoria of Prussia.

3. Images 1-4 from: AMSETJEE JEJEEBHOY (1783-1859)

Letters and calling card relating to a potential visit and the presentation of an album of photographs of Bombay to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert 19 Apr 1860- 30 Nov 1860

4. All of: Letter from Prince Alfred to his parents regarding his activities

Letters regarding photographs taken for the Raphael Collection.

The following letters are all from Charles Thurston Thompson to Dr Ernst Becker, Librarian to Prince Albert, about his work photographing Raphael's works for the Raphael Collection being gathered at that time by the Prince, which will be the theme of the next workshop.

5. All of: Letter from Charles Thurston Thompson to Dr. Ernst Becker reporting on his progress in photographing the Raphael drawings at Windsor, with a note of Becker's response.

6. All of: Letter from Charles Thurston Thompson to Dr. Ernst Becker as to prints from the negatives he has made, and the larger lens he has ordered.

7. All of: Letter from Charles Thurston Thompson to Dr. Ernst Becker asking whether all the drawings in the Raphael portfolio at Windsor are to be photographed.

8. Letter from John Scott to Dr. Ernst Becker giving information about the provenance and present ownership of a Raphael cartoon and stating that his firm has bought all Fenton's Crimean photographs.

Extending your TEI tagging



Today, we are going to introduce a few new TEI tags that are particularly relevant to the work we are doing:


<del></del> indicates a deletion by the author of the text in which the deleted material sits between the opening and closing tags. If there is a crossing out, we can indicate that by using the following <del rend="overstrike"></del>.


<add></add> can be used to indicate that something has been added to the manuscript at a particular point. For example, when a word is forgotten it is often written above or below with a mark to indicate where it belongs; likewise, it is common for a deletion to have something written above it. This can be noted with the 'add' tag. We can also say where the text was added, in the following way: <add place="above"></add> or <add place="below"></add>.

Gaps and uncertainty

Sometimes we will encounter things that we just cannot read and will have to leave out. In this case, we can insert a <gap reason="illegible"/> short tag to indicate that there is something missing.

Address and date

Lastly, for today, we will introduce two tags that are particularly useful for letters: the <address></address> tag, so that we can mark out addresses; and the <date></date> tag to mark out dates. Both of these tags simply encompass the semantic structures they suggest.