Visiting the Albert Bridge, Belfast, Northern Ireland: commemorating the ill-fated Prince Albert, Duke of Clarence

Flag used in the Police Service of Northern Ireland's logo
Flag used in the Police Service of Northern Ireland's logo | Source
The Albert Bridge, Belfast, over the Lagan
The Albert Bridge, Belfast, over the Lagan | Source
The Albert Bridge, Belfast. Detail of the ironwork on parapet on the northern side of the bridge.
The Albert Bridge, Belfast. Detail of the ironwork on parapet on the northern side of the bridge. | Source
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale | Source
Map location of Belfast
Map location of Belfast | Source

A structure more substantial than the elusive personality for which it is named

This structure, the Albert Bridge, is one of the more famous landmarks of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was opened in 1890. Designed by J C Bretland, its cast iron working was carried out by Andrew Handyside and Company, of Derby.

Close to Downtown Belfast, it connects Albertbridge Road and East Bridge Street over the Lagan River. Among features of the Bridge are decorative lamposts. In the early 21st century, the structure underwent a program of refurbishment.

The visitor might ask, so, is this fine bridge yet another structure which is named for the much mourned Consort of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert of Saxe-Cobourg and Gotha? This is actually not an unreasonable question: also in Belfast is the Albert Memorial Clock Tower, and of course in London, England, the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial all commemorate this well-known Prince Albert, as do many other structures and institutions.

But in fact there is another Prince Albert who is less well-known, but who is actually the person for whom the Albert Bridge, Belfast, is named. Indeed, this particular Prince Albert, grandson to Queen Victoria and Albert, the Prince Consort, laid the foundation stone of the Bridge in 1889.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892) is more usually referred to as Eddy, Duke of Clarence (even though Eddy or Edward was not his real name). He is probably best known for his premature death in 1892, the month prior to his expected wedding with Princess May, of Teck. (Again, like her former fiancé, Princess May is more usually known by another name: Princess Mary, later, Queen Mary, Consort to King George V, whom she married the following year after her first fiancé's death.)

But even in his short life, Eddy, Duke of Clarence, born in 1864, emerged as a curiously elusive personality. Contradictory accounts and interpretations have arisen of events, alleged or proven, in his life. Some writers have claimed he was Jack, the Ripper. Others alleged that he maintained a turbulent private life. Some have maintained that he went into temporary exile to India in order variously that lawyers could smooth over, and newspaper editors lose interest in, alleged events. Others cheerfully claimed that his temporary exile was a misnomer and constituted a coincidentally simultaneous and long planned tour of duty. Others have claimed that a slightly withdrawn personality was partly caused variously by epilepsy or deafness. All these claims and counter claims were overshadowed by news of his death in 1892.

So you never quite seem to know whom the Bridge is named for; or then, if you do, you never quite seem to know whether the Prince for whom it was named was Albert or Eddy. And then you never quite know whether he was a controversial individual or a mild mannered one, or indisposed, or hard of hearing, or whether the shadow masked the substance, or whatever else.

June 16, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Belfast itself, visitor attractions include: Belfast City Hall; Church House, the Albert Memorial Clock Tower; Belfast Castle; Queen's University Main Building; the Harbour Commissioners' building; and many others.

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How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Belfast International Airport, at Aldergrove, where car rental is available. Please note that facilities mentioned may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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