Performance Title[Pre-Hall Opening] Official Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by HM Queen Victoria [Private]
Performance Date20 May 1867
Performance Time11:30
Main PerformersHM Queen Victoria,
HRH The Prince of Wales,
Archbishop of Canterbury - speakers

(Giovanni Matteo) Mario - vocal
Secondary PerformersPrime Minister, Earl of Derby,
Gathorne Hardy, Home Secretary,
Lord President of the Council, Lord Granville

Royal Horse Artillery
Orchestra or BandLife Guards (Trumpeters),
Orchestra and Band of the Royal Italian Opera in Covent Garden
ChoirsSir Michael Costa
Set ListArrival of HM The Queen and the Royal Party to the Platform,
'God Save the Queen' (The National Anthem),
Address (HRH The Prince of Wales),
Reply (HM Queen Victoria),
Trumpets (Life Guards),
Presentation of gold and silver coins and a dedicatory inscription to HM The Queen (Prime Minister, Earl of Derby),
Presentation of a glass vessel for the coins and inscription to HM The Queen (Lord President of the Council, Lord Granville),
Placing of the vessel, coins and inscription in the Foundation Stone (HM Queen Victoria),
Lowering of the Foundation Stone,
Trumpets (Life Guards),
Ceremonial Laying of the Foundation Stone with trowel and gavel (HM Queen Victoria)
21 Gun Salute (Royal Horse Artiller - Hyde Park),
Lord's Prayer (Archbishop of Canterbury),
'Invocazione all 'Armonia', HRH Prince Albert,
'God Save the Queen' (The National Anthem),
Departure of HM The Queen and the Royal Party
Royal PresenceHM Queen Victoria,
HRH The Prince of Wales
Performance NotesBy the day of the laying of the Royal Albert Hall's foundation stone a large oval of ground had been excavated to form the foundation of the Hall. The site was very much a building site but a large marquee was erected over it, underneath which tiered seating was erected for a crowd of 7,000 spectators (in fact 10,000 onlookers packed the stands) to watch HM Queen Victoria, lay the Hall's foundation stone. The Queen had rarely been seen in public since her husband Prince Albert's death in 1861 and was still dressed entirely in black. A huge crowd assembled to see her along the route.

At the site underneath the marquee, a huge platform had been erected and on each side was an enclosure, one for government ministers and the other for memebers of the Diplomatic Corps. Once at the site The Queen walked to the platform and was handed gold and silver coins, and an inscription, which she placed in a glass vessel, which was then inserted into a cavity beneath the foundation stone. She patted the stone down with a golden trowel and a 21 gun salute was heard from Hyde Park, opposite the Hall. 'Invocation to Harmony,' a composition by Prince Albert was played.

Reports at the time said the Queen spoke, “indistinctly, slowly and under great emotional strain”. It was at this event that she famously announced that the building was to be called the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, in memory of her beloved ‘Bertie’, deviating from its original name, The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences;
"I thank you for your affectionate and dutiful address. It has been with a struggle that I have nerved myself to a compliance with the wish that I should take part in this day's ceremony; but I have been sustained by the thought that I should assist by my presence in promoting the accomplishment of his great designs to whose memory the gratitude and affection of the country is now rearing a noble monument, which I trust may yet look down on such a centre of institutions for the promotion of art and science as it was his fond hope to establish here. It is my wish that this hall should bear his name to whom it will have owed its existence, and be called 'The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences'."

"A muggy dull day - At ½ past 10 started for London, with Louise [Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, later Duchess of Argyll], Leopold [Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany], Baby [Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenburg], and all the Ladies and Gentlemen (the latter, in uniform). Christian [Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein] met us at the station as well as Lenchen [Princess Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein], but she did not accompany me. A little rain had been falling, the sky was heavy and the air oppressive, but by the time we reached Paddington, it cleared and was quite fair. Got into open carriages, of which there were 6, and 4 horses, with Ascot liveries, and had full Escort of the Life Guards, with standard and trumpeter. Great crowds everywhere and much enthusiasm. We drove through the Park, over the bridge, down Rotten Row and down the Albert Road, up to the place adjoining the Horticultural [RHS South Kensington], where the Hall is to be. It was enclosed and covered in by an enormous tent. Here I got out being received by Bertie [Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII] with an enormous white bouquet, brought from Paris (he having only arrived this morning) - Affie [Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh] and Arthur [Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught] with the other members of the Committee and was conducted to the place where the [Foundation] stone was to be laid. On the platform erected for me stood George C. [Duke of Cambridge], Augusta Sterlitz [Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Sterlitz] and Adolphus [Adolphus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Sterlitz]. The place was full of people, about 6,000 or more, numbers of whom I knew. The National Anthem was sung and then came that most trying moment, from which I suffered severely, - the reading of the Address by Bertie and my answer, both full of allusions to my beloved one, which agitated me dreadfully, and I was nearly overcome, though I managed to command myself. This over, I went down to the lower platform, only accompanied by our children and those engaged in the laying of the stone. The usual ceremony was gone through, the Arch-bishop of Canterbury offering up a short prayer. What was very moving and again nearly upset me, was the flourish of trumpets, whilst the stone slowly descended into its place. I then returned to my former place and dearest Albert's composition, the "Invocazione all 'Armonia" was performed under the direction of Costa. Mario's voice, which my beloved one so admired, sang his solo beautifully, though he is now 67! How I thought of dearest Albert's feeling so shy about ever hearing this composition performed, which I had helped in writing down for him, and in singing the solos for him. The National Anthem was again sung and accompanied by our children, preceded by all our Gentleman and followed by the Ladies and persons connected with the Horticultural Society, I walked through the immense assemblage to the door of the Conservatory, where I was received by the Duke of Buccleuch and others, who showed us some fine flowers. I was taken by the north western terrace of the garden (full of people) to my carriage. Drove in the same way down Rotten Row and then Constitution Hill, all full of cheering crowds, but only my carriage went on to Marlborough House."
(Queen Victoria's Diary, Vol.57, pg.130, 20 May 1867)

Following the laying of the stone, work on the newly-named Royal Albert Hall continued over the following years, with the building being officially opened by Queen Victoria 29 March 1871.

The foundation stone, a block of reddish Aberdeen granite, although barely visible, is still in place; sitting proudly underneath the back row of the K Stalls seating at Door 6.

The Golden trowel and ebony and ivory gavel used by HM Queen Victoria to ceremonially lay the foundation stone were presented to Her Majesty by Charles Lucas, on behalf of the building contractors, Lucas Brothers (whereabouts unknown).

A silver trowel was also presented to Lieutenant Colonel Scott RE (whereabouts unknown).
Related Archival MaterialProgramme (RAHE/1/1867/1 - Bound in Presscuttings),
Illustrations (RAHE/9/1867/1/OS, 2),
RAHE/9/1867/1/OSIllustration of Queen Victoria laying of the foundation stone of the Royal Albert Hall20 May 1867
RAHE/9/1867/2Illustration of the arrival of the Queen at the Royal Albert Hall20 May 1867
Ref NoTitleNo of Performances
Work8878[Pre-Hall Opening] Official Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by HM Queen Victoria [Private]1
CodeName of Performer(s)
DS/UK/170Victoria; Alexandrina (24 May 1819-22 January 1901); Queen, Empress of India; British Queen of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
DS/UK/6194Costa; Sir; Michael (14 February 1808-29 April 1884); Italian conductor and composer
DS/UK/21390Mario; Giovanni Matteo (1810-1883); Italian opera singer
DS/UK/4046Edward VII (1841-1910); King; British King, Emperor of India (1901-1910). First British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
DS/UK/21392UK; Royal Italian Opera; 1847-; British opera company
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