On the tenth day of Christmas the 1862 Committee gave to me… ten Lords a Leaping
The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was established in 1850 to oversee the organisation of the first International Exhibition – known as the Great Exhibition – held in Hyde Park, South Kensington. Prince Albert was the chairman of the Commission and other eminent members included Henry Cole (founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum), Lord John Russell (Liberal politician, two times Prime Minister), Robert Stephenson (civil engineer) and Charles Barry (architect). After the exhibition closed, the Commission continued, using profits raised by the exhibition to purchase land in South Kensington to develop it into the cultural centre it is today. In an altered form – both Prince Albert and Henry Cole being conspicuously absent – the Royal Commission of the Exhibition of 1851 also oversaw the organisation to the 1862 International Exhibition. Lacking much of the unity and leadership it had had during the planning of the 1851 exhibition, the many lords, nobles and intelligentsia, of which it was comprised, most famously found themselves leaping with impassioned disagreement over Captain Fowke’s design for the 1862 exhibition building.
© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2013