Saturday, January 19, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Prince Albert Victor Receiving the Freedom of City of London, 1885

Prince Albert Victor
Duke of Clarence and Avondale
George Gammon Adams
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Prince Albert Victor of Wales, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale and eldest son of the Princes of Wales and Princess Alexandra, wasn’t really to motivated by anything except a desire to be comfortable and have a nice rest. Still, he was the heir presumptive and he was said to have been infinitely charming.

Here, we see a roundel featuring the Prince. This was a model designed for the obverse of a medal—the work of George Gammon Adams, about 1885. It commemorates the event of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence receiving the Freedom of City of London at a ceremony in the Guildhall on 29th June. This traditional ceremony is still in practice today and has been an important presentation since 1237. Basically, it’s an honorary ceremony which grants the recipient the right to be a “freeman.” The medieval term 'freeman' ostensibly meant one who was not the property of a feudal lord, and therefore, was allowed to enjoy privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. According to the official City of London rules, “Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free - hence the term 'freedom of the City'.” As part of the ceremony, all freemen receive the book of “Rules for the Conduct of Life,” which was written by the Lord Mayor in 1737.

It’s basically meaningless, but a nice honor, I suppose, rather like getting the key to the city.

The artist, George Gammon Adams (1821-1898) was a portrait sculptor and medallist who designed and exhibited prize medals for Prince Albert’s baby, the Great Exhibition of 1851. Adams’ work was so appreciated that in 1852 he was chosen to model the death mask of Wellington—rather a big deal. Several important monuments by the artist still stand in London.

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