Performance TitleOfficial Opening of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by HM Queen Victoria
Performance Date29 March 1871
Performance DayWednesday
Performance Time10:00
Main PerformersMadame Lemmens Sherrington,
Mr Santley,
Madame Patey,
Mr Vernon Rigby - vocals

Sir Henry Cole,
Bishop of London,
HM Queen Victoria,
HRH The Prince of Wales - speakers
Secondary PerformersMr William Thomas Best - organ,
Mr Saintons - violin,
Mr George Bernard Rigby - vocal,
Yeoman of the Royal Guard
Orchestra or BandColdstream Guards,
Band of the Grenadier Guards,
Royal Horse Artillery (gun salute in Hyde Park)
ChoirsSacred Harmonic Society,
Handel Festival Choir,
Crystal Palace Choir
ConductorsSir Michael Costa,
Dan Godfrey (Band of the Grenadier Guards)
Set ListBand of the Grenadier Guards played in the Gallery whilst the audience were seated,
Announcement of and Taking of a Photograph (Sir Henry Cole, the London Stereoscopic Company),
HRH The Prince of Wales and HM The Queen arrive at Door 6,
'God Save the Queen' (The National Anthem - One verse) (Band of the Grenadier Guards, Mr William Thomas Best, Sacred Harmonic Society, Handel Festival Choir, Crystal Palace Choir),
Procession of HRH The Prince of Wales and HM The Queen with the Albert Hall Committee (Lord President of the Council, Earl Granville, and the Home Secretary, Henry Austin Bruce, Sir Henry Cole, Lucas Brothers, representatives of the Commissioners and Provisional Committee, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Princess Alexandra, Prince Arthur, Princess Louise, Prince Beatrice, Prince Leopold, Prince Christian, Princess Christian, Marquis of Lorne) to the dais,
Short Address of Welcome and Handing of Address to HM The Queen (HRH The Prince of Wales),
Reply (HM The Queen),
Formal Reply (Home Secretary),
Passing of Reply to HRH The Prince of Wales and Response (HM The Queen),
Prayer (Bishop of London),
Official Declaration that the Hall was Open (HRH Prince of Wales),
Trumpets Fanfare from the Top of the Portico to Announce the Opening of the Hall,
Royal Gun Salute in Hyde Park,
'God Save the Queen' (The National Anthem), (Mr William Best, Orchestra, Trumpeters),
Address (HRH The Prince of Wales),
Address (HM The Queen)

HM The Queen Seated in the Queen's Box,
'A Biblical Cantata', Sir Michael Costa, John Oxenford (Madame Lemmens Sherrington, Mr Santley, Madame Patey, Mr Vernon Rigby),
Queen Departs,
Grand Miscellaneous Concert:
'L'Invocazione all 'Armonia (Invocation to Harmony)'. HRH Prince Albert (Madame Lemmens Sherrington, Mr Santley, Madame Patey, Mr Vernon Rigby),
'Recitativo and Aria, from Ronaldo', Handel (Madame Patey),
'Trio 'Ti Prego', Curshmann (Mesdames Sherrington and Patey, Mr Vernon Rigby),
'Aria - Salve Dimora', from Faust, Gounod (Mr Vernon Rigby, Mr Saintons)
'Preghiera 'Nume del Ciel', Auber (Sacred Harmonic Society, Handel Festival Choir, Crystal Palace Choir),
'Overture - Gazza Ladra', Rossini
Royal PresenceHM Queen Victoria,
HRH The Prince of Wales,
HSH Prince Francis of Teck
HSH Princess Victoria Mary of Teck,
HRH Prince Arthur,
HH Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein
HRH Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne,
HRH Princess Beatrice,
HRH Prince Leopold,
HRH Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein,
HRH Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein,
HH The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,
HRH The Duke of Argyll,
HRH The Duchess of Argyll,
HRH The Duke of Cambridge,
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh,
HRH The Duchess of Sutherland,
HRH The Duchess of Roxburghe,
Earl of Bessborough,
Earl of Lucan,
Viscount Sydney,
Lord Harris,
Lady Churchill,
Marquis of Lorne,
Marquis of Ailesbury
Performance NotesWorld premieres of 'A Biblical Cantata' by Sir Michael Costa and John Oxenford.

The Hall was being decorated right up to the last minute of its official opening by HM Queen Victoria. No colour scheme had been approved or been able to have been put in place in time, so the Hall was an array of white distempered walls. The Hall was scented with eau-de-cologne (perfume) pumped through its heating and ventilation system, which was supplied by Mr Rimmel (Rimmel cosmetics), who had exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Doors opened at 10:00 so that the crowd of 8,000 ticket holders could enter and be seated in time. The Prince of Wales (wearing the uniform of the 10th Hussars), as President of the Provisional Committee for the Hall, arrived at 12:00 to be received by the Provisional Committee. HM Queen Victoria arrived at 12:30 as part of a nine carriage convoy accompanied by the 1st Life Guards. The Queen was met by the Prince and the Provisional Committee at the then Royal Entrance (today the Door 6 Porch), having come in State from Buckingham Palace in some carriages accompanied by an Escort.

The Queen was conducted to a gilt and crimson damask Royal chair which stood on a dais spread with a dark red carpet, in front of the orchestra. A canopy made of purple velvet, gold tassels and fringes was placed above the Royal chair and other chairs for members of the accompanying royal family. In the audience were assembled the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and the Lord Chancellor along with members of the Government in Court dress; Benjamin Disraeli and other members of the Opposition in Windsor uniform; The Lord Mayor of London, Sheriffs, foreign Ambassadors, Aldermen, and other members and officers of the City Corporation in their robes of office, along with over 50 Mayors of many provincial towns, which had contributed towards the cost of the Hall.

As the Queen entered the Hall the orchestra and organist played one verse of 'God Save The Queen'. The procession to the dais included Henry Cole, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, officers of the Court, the Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, the Princess of Wales, Prince Arthur, Princess Louise, Prince Leopold, Princess Beatrice, Princess Christian, the Marquis of Lorne, Prince of Wales and The Queen.

A short address was read by The Prince of Wales;
"May it please your Majesty, - As President of the Provisional Committee of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, it is my high privilege and gratification to report to your Majesty the successful completion of this hall, an important feature of a long-cherished design of my beloved father, for the general culture of your people, in whose improvement he was always deeply interested. Encouraged by your Majesty's sympathies, and liberally supported by your subjects, we have been enabled to carry out the work without any aid from funds derived from public taxation. I am warranted in expressing our confidence that this building will justify the conviction we expressed in the report submitted on the occasion of your Majesty's laying its first stone, that by its erection we should be meeting a great public want. Your Majesty's Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, in further prosecution of my father's design for the encouragement of the arts and sciences, an object which he always had warmly at heart, are about to commence a series of annual international exhibitions, to the success of which this hall will greatly contribute by the facilities which it will afford for the display of objects and for the meeting of bodies interested in the industries which will form the subjects of successive exhibitions. The interest shown in the hall by the most eminent musicians and composers of Europe strengthens our belief that it will largely conduce to the revival among all classes of the nation of a taste for the cultivation of music. Your Majesty will hear with satisfaction that results have justified the original estimate of the cost of the building, and that, aided by the liberal assistance of your Exhibition Commissioners, the corporation will commence its management unfettered by pecuniary liabilities, and under conditions eminently calculated to ensure success. It is my grateful duty to return to your Majesty our humble thanks for the additional mark of your Royal favour which is conferred upon us by your auspicious presence on the present occasion, when our labours as a Provisional Committee are drawing to a close. We venture to hope that when we shall have resigned our functions into the hands of the governing body, which will be elected under the provisions of the Royal Charter granted to us, your Majesty will continue to the Corporation that measure of support which has been always graciously given to us."

The Queen's reply;
"I thank you for the loyal address which, as President of the Provisional Committee of the Hall of Arts and Sciences, you have presented to me. In opening this spacious and noble Hall, it gives me pleasure to acknowledge the generous spirit which has been manifested in the completion, by voluntary effort, of a work promising so much public usefulness. I cordially concur in the hope you have expressed, that this Hall, forming as it does part of a plan in which I must ever take a deep and personal interest, may largely, and permanently, contribute to the promotion, among my people, of the love of Arts, as well as to the success of the annual exhibitions, which will bring successively into instructive competition the choicest products of the industries of all nations. These objects could not fail to commend themselves at all times and all places to my sympathy and interest, fraught as they are with recollections of him to whose memory this hall is dedicated, and whose dearest aim was to inspire my people with a love of all that is good and noble, and, by closer knowledge and appreciation of each other, to cultivate a spirit of goodwill and concord among inhabitants of all regions., I gladly give the assurance of my support to the Corporation to which the Hall is about to be entrusted, and I earnestly hope that their efforts to promote the objects for which it has been constructed may be rewarded by a career of abiding success."

Her Majesty was handed a written note by the Home Secretary and replied to the Prince of Wales, "In handing you this answer I wish to express my great admiration of this beautiful hall, and my earnest wishes for its complete success."

After this reply a short prayer was said by the Bishop of London (in the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was ill):
"Almighty and most merciful God, under whose protecting care this work begun in Thy Holy Name, has been brought to its completion, fulfil and perfect, we beseech Thee, the designs of those who have erected this fabric for Thy Honour and glory and for the moral and intellectual culture of Thy people. Grant that within these walls may ever be sought and found the knowledge which humbles while it elevates, the tastes which purify while they adorn, and only those true pleasures which are unsullied by the stain of evil. Sanctify human science by the grace of heaven; imbue the creations of art with the beauty of holiness; and make each step in the discovery of truth a nearer approach to Thee who art the Truth itself. Give peace in our time, O Lord; and knit the hearts of all together in loyalty, unity and Christian brotherhood, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."

After which 'God Save the Queen' was again sung. Her Majesty was then supposed to formally open the Hall, but was so overcome with emotion that it was left to the Prince of Wales to say, "The Queen declares this hall to be now opened.". There was immense cheering, trumpets sounded, the mass choir sang the National Anthem, and the park guns boomed a distant salute.

The Queen was then escorted by to the Royal Box (then the Queen's Box) on the grand tier level, and after Sir Michael Costa's 'Cantata', written for the opening, and performed by a full orchestra and a massed choir of 1,200 people, she left the Hall to loud cheer, and a musical concert was given.

Queen Victoria records in her diary (25 March 1871), "After luncheon saw Sir M Costa about the opening of the Albert Hall."

Later, after the opening ceremony Queen Victoria wrote;
"Very dull and very raw and cold. Ernest C [Ernest Coburg, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha], Arthur [Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught] and Beatrice [Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg] breakfasted with me. At a little after 12, started in 9 dress closed carriages (mine with a pair of creams [horses]) for the Albert Hall, for its opening. I drove with dear Alice [Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt] and Ernest Coburg [Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha], Lenchen [Princess Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein], Louise [Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, later Duchess of Argyll], Beatrice and Arthur in the next carriage, Leopold [Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany], Christian [Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein] and Lorne [Marquis of Lorne, later Duke of Argyll], following and then the suites. Immense and very loyal crowds. Bertie received us at the door and then we walked up the centre of the immensely crowded Hall (8000 people were there) which made me feel quite giddy. Bertie read the address from the dais, to which he had been conducted, very well and I handed to him the answer saying "In handing you this answer I wish to express my great admiration of this beautiful Hall and my earnest wishes for its complete success". This was greatly applauded. The National Anthem was sung after which Bertie declared the Hall open. Good Mr Cole was quite crying with emotion and delight. It is to Colonel Scott of the Engineers, who built the Hall, that the success of the whole is due. We then went upstairs to my box, which is not quite in the centre, and heard Costa's Cantata performed, which is very fine. I had never been at such a big function since beloved Albert's time, and it was naturally trying and "emotionnant" for me. I thought of poor dear General Grey who had been so enthusiastic and anxious about this undertaking and who was not permitted to see the building completed. It was opened 2 days before the 1st anniversary of his death. Lenchen and Louise returned with me, the others remaining for the concert which followed."
(Queen Victoria's Diary, 29 March 1871, Vol.60, pg.81-83)

"29 Wednesday.
Hall before 8, with Alan & Granville. Organ in litter: Chandeliers in paper. Bare boarded. left so. R.A.Hall opening with Success: It had been my aim since 1858, when I made some plans with HH Cole."
(Sir Henry Cole's Diary, 29 March 1871)

The Hall sold 1915 tickets.
Related Archival MaterialProgramme (RAHE/1/1871/2),
Event Schedule (RAHE/4/4/1),
Illustrations (RAHE/9/1871/1-3/OS) (RAHE/9/1871/2, 3, 9),
Ticket (RAHE/8/5/1871/1),
Trumpet (RAHE/8/12/1)
Ticket Prices£1 05s (Gallery), £2 10s (Circle), £3 15s (Stalls), £25 4s (Loggia Box)
RAHE/2/1871/1Opening of the Royal Albert Hall by Queen Victoria29 March 1871
RAHE/4/4/1Schedule for the State Opening of the Royal Albert Hall31 March 1871
RAHE/9/1871/1/OSIllustration of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences29 March 1871
RAHE/9/1871/2/OSIllustration of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by the Queen29 March 1871
RAHE/9/1871/3/OSIllustration of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall by the Queen29 March 1871
RAHE/9/1871/2Illustration of the Prince of Wales declaring the hall open29 March 1871
RAHE/9/1871/3Illustration of the Arrival of the Queen to the opening of the Royal Albert Hall29 March 1871
RAHE/9/1871/7Illustration of the Dais of the Royal Albert Hall29 March 1871
RAHE/8/5/1871/1Opening of the Royal Albert Hall29 March 1871
Ref NoTitleNo of Performances
OwkabidorizylOfficial State Opening of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by HM Queen Victoria1
CodeName of Performer(s)
DS/UK/5795Lemmens-Sherrington; Hellen (4 October 1834-9 May 1906); English soprano
DS/UK/3982Santley; Sir; Charles (1834-1922); British opera singer
DS/UK/5413Patey; Janet Monach (1842-1894); British oratorio contralto
DS/UK/6196Rigby; Vernon (1840-); English tenor
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/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/6199Jackson; John (1811-1886); British Bishop of London
DS/UK/1870Band of the HM Grenadier Guards (1685)
DS/UK/6195Sacred Harmonic Society; 1832-1878; British amateur choir
DS/UK/6194Costa; Sir; Michael (14 February 1808-29 April 1884); Italian conductor and composer
DS/UK/1123Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert (1850-1942); British Duke of Connaught and Strathearn; British Royal Family - seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria
DS/UK/3978Princess Helena / Princess Christian; Helena Augusta Victoria (1846-1923); British royal family member
DS/UK/4175Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife; Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar (1867-1931); British royal family member
DS/UK/4177Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg; Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore (1857-1944); British royal family member
DS/UK/6200Prince Leopold; Leopold George Duncan Albert (1853-1884); British royal family member
DS/UK/6201Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein; Frederick Christian Charles Augustus (1831-1917); German prince
DS/UK/2224Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll; Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939); British royal family member - the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and her husband, Albert, Prince Consort
DS/UK/2429British Army; The Band of the Coldstream Guards; 1785-; British army band
DS/UK/3726Cole; Sir; Henry (15 July 1808-18 April 1882); FRSA; English civil servant, inventor and chief organiser for the construction of the Royal Albert Hall
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