On the death of the Prince Consort, steps were taken in Wolverhampton to erect a monument to his memory. Mr. Alderman Underhill was then Mayor, and he convened a meeting, attended by some of the gentlemen of the town, who agreed that a subscription should be raised to erect a memorial to the lamented Prince. The form of the memorial was a subject much discussed, and different opinions were expressed, but ultimately, in deference, we believe, to the expressed opinion of the Sovereign, it was decided that the Wolverhampton memorial should represent the late Prince Consort on horseback. The sculptor selected was Mr. Thornycroft, of London. For many months little was heard of the work, further than that it was progressing, but Mr. Underhill had by no means lost sight of it; his interest in the matter was unceasing, and he was always ready to afford information in answer to inquiries. To that gentleman the erection of the statue cost not only a large amount of personal trouble, but a considerable sum of money, he having had the granite pedestal put up at his own expense. It is due also to Alderman Hawksford, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee, to say that he rendered Mr. Underhill, the Chairman, much assistance; in fact, at a meeting of the subscribers, Alderman Underhill stated that the success of the work was in a great measure owing to the exertions of that gentleman.
The Prince's favourite charger was likewise placed by the Queen at the disposal of Mr. Thornycroft, who carefully studied the anatomy of the living animal. While preserving the contour of the noble charger, the muscles and tendons are brought out in minute detail. The pedestal is of Grey Dartmoor granite, the upper portion polished, and has panels to receive the inscription. The statue was cast in bronze by Messrs. Elkington and Co., of Birmingham, from the model supplied by the sculptor. In August, 1866, the Granite Pedestal was erected, and in the following November the Statue arrived in Wolverhampton, and was placed in its position, and the subscribers were called together to consider the inauguration.
At that meeting it was resolved: "That the Mayor of Wolverhampton be respectfully requested to convene a meeting of the Corporation of Wolverhampton, to obtain its sanction for his inviting, in the name of the Corporation and people of the borough, her most gracious majesty the Queen to honour the borough with her presence, at a time to be fixed by her majesty, on the occasion of the inauguration of the memorial statue there erected in Albert's memory. In the event of Her Majesty being unable, or declining to accept such invitation, to invite such member or members of Her Majesty's Family as Her Majesty shall be pleased to represent Her on the occasion above referred to, and to add that, in the absence of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Christian and the Prince (her husband) would receive a hearty welcome."
A special meeting of the Council was held on Friday, November 16th, when it was unanimously resolved: "That the Resolution of the Subscribers to the Prince Albert Memorial now read, be received and entered on the minutes of this Council, and that the Mayor be respectfully requested to forward an invitation to Her Majesty the Queen in the substance of that Resolution."
The news was made known in a few minutes throughout the town, by the peals of the Old Church Bells. At five o'clock a special meeting of the Town Council was held at the Town Hall, the Mayor presiding. The Mayor (whose entrance, like that of Alderman Underhill, was the signal for loud cheering) said: "I need not remark that the joyous peals of our own bells have caused everyone present to feel the delight which every true-born Englishman would feel on such an occasion. (Applause.) We are aware that the most we hoped when we met last week was that Her Majesty would condescend to allow one of her Royal Family to attend the inauguration; but an old adage said that ‘whenever it rained it poured,’ and it seemed that the Queen had not only deigned to promise to come herself, but also to bring several of her family. (Cheers.) We have just cause to know that Her Majesty seriously entertained that step at the early part of the week; and the General Purposes Committee, which met on Monday morning, appointed a deputation to consult with the Lord Lieutenant of the County on the subject, which was done. Afterwards, Aldermen Hawksford and Underhill, the Town Clerk, and myself, went to London, for the purpose of ascertaining what the town might fairly hope. The result of that journey was that they had not the slightest doubt on Tuesday of what had been ratified that afternoon. Renewed about twelve o'clock that morning he received a telegram from Mr. Hayes, the Town Clerk, who was left by the deputation in London on Tuesday. That message was as follows: "I have received a telegram appointing for me to come to General Grey's room, at Buckingham Palace, at a quarter past twelve. I will telegraph the result." (Applause.) All, I daresay, are anxious to hear the result of the interview. That result came in the following telegram, received from Mr. Hayes about four o'clock this afternoon: "I have attended at Buckingham Palace, and am authorised to announce that the Queen, accompanied by their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess Christian, and Princess Louise, will Herself inaugurate the Statue erected to the memory of the late Prince Consort, on Friday, the 30th instant. (Loud and prolonged applause.) We all have periods in our lives which are a source of great delight and pride to us; but I am sure that when I anticipated many important events during my mayoralty, I had no expectation that I should have the distinguished honour of welcoming Her Majesty to Wolverhampton. (Cheers.) I am sure that you will all delight to do your utmost to make the visit a success, to give satisfaction to the Queen, and cause her no regret for the course she has taken, at the same time that they did honour to the town. (Renewed cheering.) Proceeding to business, their first course would be to organise committees to arrange for the commencement and completion of the various works that must at once be done. I will read you the names of the various gentlemen who have been appointed to serve on the respective committees; but it must be understood that they have power to add to their number any gentleman in the town whose services were likely to be of any use to them. (Hear, hear.) I am a member of each committee, and move that the following gentlemen shall form the Reception, Allotment, Address, Correspondence, and Equipage Committee: Aldermen Ironmonger, Underhill, Fowler, Hawksford, Ford, Smith, Simkiss; Councillors Joseph Ford, Mander, Bantock, James Underhill, Matthews, Lewis, H. Underhill (Clerk of the Peace)".
Alderman Walker seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously. "And I move that the following shall form the Breakfast Committee: Aldermen Hawksford and Ironmonger; Councillors Mander, Smith, Weaver, Willcock, Sidney, Thurstans; and that the Decorative Committee shall be as follows: Alderman Hawksford; Councillors Mander, Joseph Ford, Henry Lloyd, Thomas Lloyd, James Underhill, Willcock, Major and Turton. Works Committee: Aldermen Mortiboy, J. Walker, and H. Langman; Councillors T. Lloyd, H. Lloyd, Reeve, Hunter, Hill, Ashby, John Lees, Jones, Bagaley, and Bantock." Both motions were carried without a dissentient. "These committees, I think, will compose a sufficient nucleus for the development of the whole scheme." (Hear, hear.)
The following is a copy of a letter which was received by the Mayor from the Right Hon. S. H. Walpole, Secretary of State for the Home Department, conveying formal intimation of Her Majesty's acceptance of the invitation to inaugurate the statue :
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
S. H. WALPOLE.
" The Mayor of Wolverhampton."