10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…2. King George I above St George’s…

The weathered statue of King George I. PICTURE: Wongleism (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Perched atop the stepped pyramid steeple of St George’s Church in Bloomsbury is a statue of King George I – the only statue of the king in London.

St George’s Bloomsbury with its stepped pyramid spire. PICTURE: Reading Tom (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The larger-than-life-sized Portland stone statue is the work of Edward Strong who was master mason on the building of the church. It depicts the king in Roman costume standing atop a Roman altar.

The steeple, described as the “most eccentric” in London, also features statues of two unicorns and two lions at its base – both symbols of the Royal Coat of Arms of the UK – the lions representing England and the unicorns Scotland – and included apparently as a comment on Hanoverian succession. These were also originally the work of Strong but the originals disappeared in the 1870s and those now present are replicas which themselves recently underwent a restoration.

The stepped pyramid spire is said to have been influenced by Pliny the Elder’s description of Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

Horace Walpole famously referred to the statue of King George in verse:

When Henry VIII left the Pope in the lurch,
The Protestants made him the head of the church,
But George’s good subjects, the Bloomsbury people
Instead of the church, made him head of the steeple. 

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