Before we move on to our next Wednesday special series, here’s a recap…
Unveiled just nine years ago, this bust in Bayswater commemorates George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a 15th century Albanian lord who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (and who later became a central figure of inspiration in the Albanian National Awakening of the 19th century).
Located on the corner of Inverness Terrace and Porchester Gardens, the bronze bust was created by Kreshnik Xhiku.
An inscription on the front reads “George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, 1405 – 1468, invincible Albanian national hero, defender of western civilization.”
It was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence on 28th November, 2012, with Westminster City Councillor Robert Davis and Albanian Charge d’affaires, Mal Berisha, in attendance.
The bust was installed as part of Westminster’s City of Sculpture initiative.
This statue in Portland Place in Marylebone commemorates wartime Polish Prime Minister and military leader (and British ally) Władysław Sikorski (1881-1943).
Larger than lifesize, the bronze statue depicts Sikorski in military uniform standing on a white stone plinth. It is the work of late British artist Faith Winter (also the sculptor of a controversial statue of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris outside the RAF church on the Strand).
Funded by public subscription, this statue of Sikorski was erected on 24th September, 2000, and unveiled by the Duke of Kent. It stands near the Polish Embassy on a traffic island near the intersection with Weymouth Street.
There’s inscriptions on each face of the plinth which commemorate Sikorski as well as the “Soldiers, Seamen and Airmen of the Polish Armed Forces and the Resistance Movement” between 1939 – 1945. The east face inscription commemorates Polish involvement in World War II through a listing of battles.
Sikorski is also commemorated with a plaque adorning the Rubens Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road which served as his headquarters between 1940 until his death in an air crash in Gibraltar in 1943 (where there is another memorial to him).
Another of the many statues in Belgrave Square and surrounds, this statue depicts a giant of South American history.
Don José de San Martín was an Argentine general who was instrumental in the continent struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire and is regarded as a hero in Argentina, Chile and Peru.
The bronze statue, the work of Juan Carlos Ferraro, was cast in Buenos Aires in 1993 and unveiled in the northern corner of the square’s gardens by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1994 in the presence of dignitaries including Senator Eduardo Menem of Argentina, Lord Mayor of Westminster Angela Hooper, UK Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Argentine Ambassador Mario Campora. It was erected by the Argentine-British community in Argentina and is dedicated to the people of London.
San Martín is depicted standing in military uniform on top of a heavy plinth. It’s inscribed on the front with the words “General Don José de San Martín, 1778-1850, founder of the Argentine independence, he also gave freedom to Chile and Peru.” There are also some further inscriptions referring to its creation and one on the right side of the plinth saying “His name represents democracy justice and liberty”.
A plaque was added on the ground in front of the statue to mark the 150th anniversary of San Martin’s death – 17th August, 2000.
It’s not the only memorial to San Martín in London – there’s also a Blue Plaque, erected by the London County Council in 1953, at 23 Park Road in Marylebone (San Martín stayed here for a few months in 1824).
There’s a couple of statues commemorating Mahatma Gandhi in London with the most recent one was unveiled in Parliament Square in 2015.
But this week we head Bloomsbury where we find an older one in the centre of the gardens in Tavistock Square.
The work of Fredda Brilliant, it was unveiled by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in May, 1968. Also present was the first High Commissioner of India to the UK after independence, VK Krishna Menon, and the then-current High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, Shanti Swaroop Dhavan.
Menon apparently chose the location for the statue – Gandhi had studied at the nearby University College London between 1888 and 1891.
Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948 after having playing an instrumental role in the push for India’s independence, is depicted sitting in a cross-legged in the lotus position wearing a loincloth with a shawl over his right shoulder. The statue sits atop a rounded Portland stone plinth.
The memorial was erected by the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Committee, with the support of the India League. It was Grade II-listed in 1974.
A further plaque was added beneath the statue in 1996 commemorating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi.
Back to Parliament Square this week where we look at a bronze statue of anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Unveiled on 29th August, 2007, this larger-than-life statue is the work of English sculpture Ian Walters (he completed a clay sculpture of the Parliament Square statue before his death in 2006 but sadly didn’t live to see it cast in bronze in London.)
The statue was proposed by South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods but after his death in 2001, the fundraising effort, officially launched in 2003, was led by his wife Wendy and Sir Richard Attenborough.
It depicts Mandela standing on a low plinth with his arms outstretched as though making a speech. He is shown wearing a flowery shirt.
It was originally proposed the statue be located outside of the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square but after planning approval was refused, the alternative site of Parliament Square was eventually decided upon.
The unveiling in the south-west corner of the square was attended by Mandela himself along with his wife Graça Machel and then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone while then PM Gordon Brown did the official duties.
Interestingly it’s not the only work of Walters depicting Mandela – he was also the sculptor behind the bust of Mandela which stands outside Royal Festival Hall in South Bank.
It’s also not the only South African who has a statue in Parliament Square – there’s also one of Jan Smuts, twice Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa in the early 20th century (in fact Mandela recalled at the unveiling that he and his friend Oliver Tambo, who went on to become president of the ANC, had once joked about seeing the statue of a Black man one day erected in the square – Tambo never lived to see it, but Mandela, at age 89, did).
We go back to Belgrave Square this week to its westernmost corner where there is a bronze statue of 15th century Portuguese aristocrat and explorer, Prince Henry the Navigator.
Prince Henry (1394-1460) was the son of King John I of Portugal and Philippa, the daughter of English nobleman John of Gaunt and sister of King Henry IV.
As well as being appointed the Governor of the Algarve in 1419, Henry became famous for his scientific and exploratory endeavours – he was instrumental in opening the navigational route to India (although his nickname “The Navigator” apparently was applied to him until centuries later5)
The statue, which has the prince wearing robes seated on a rocky outcrop with a rolled map in his hand, is attributed to Simoes de Almeida (who died in 1950) and it’s been claimed it was made as far back as 1915. There is a duplicate of the statue located in the US – at Fall River, Massachusetts – but this is credited to the sculptor, Aristide Berto Cianfarani.
While it’s origins remain somewhat unclear, we do know the statue was unveiled by the President of Portugal in February, 2002, with the Duke of Westminster present.
There are some verses from Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa on the side of the plinth.
Unveiled in the early 1990s, this statue of the French leader Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) is located in St James’s, close to the headquarters where de Gaulle headed the government-in-exile following the fall of France in 1940.
The life-sized statue is the work of sculptor Angela Conner and architect Bernard Wiehahn and was erected in Carlton Gardens following a campaign by Lady Soames, daughter of Winston Churchill. De Gaulle is depicted standing in the uniform of a General de Brigade.
The was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, in June 1993. Nearby are an English Heritage Blue Plaque as well as another plaque, both commemorating the location of the headquarters.
A commemorative ceremony takes place each year at the statue organised by the French Embassy.
De Gaulle flew to England in June, 1940, and was subsequently recognised by Britain as the leader of the Free French. He established his headquarter at 4 Carlton Gardens on 22nd July that year, initially living at the Connaught Hotel and, from 1942 to 1944, in Hampstead. He returned to France following the D-Day invasion in 1944.
One of a cluster of statues depicting foreign leaders around Belgravia Square (thanks to the presence of so many foreign embassies in the area), this work depicting Simón Bolívar, a towering figure in the early 19th century liberation of South America from colonial powers, was erected in 1974.
The bronze, by Hugo Daini, shows Bolívar standing as though about to make a speech
The inscription describes Bolívar as the liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama and the founder of Bolivia and also mentions the details of his birth – Caracas, Venezuela, 24th July, 1783 – and death – Santa Maria, Colombia, 17th December, 1830.
It is accompanied by a quote on the side of the pedestal, featuring words attributed to Bolívar: “I am convinced that England alone is capable of protecting the world’s precious rights as she is great, glorious and wise”.
The statue was erected by the aforementioned nations (the coats-of-arms of which are on the plinth) and unveiled in by James Callaghan, then Foreign Secretary (and later PM).
Located on the west side of India House – location of the High Commission of India – is a bust of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India.
The bust, which stands in India Place between Aldwych and The Strand, is the work of Latika Katt and stands on a granite plinth. It was unveiled in 1990 by the High Commissioner of India LM Singhvi and the Mayor of London.
In 2009, the bronze bust was temporarily dislodged from the plinth but was subsequently returned to its home.
Standing on the edge of Parliament Square opposite the UK’s home of government, this statue of the 16th US President was erected to mark the friendship between Britain and the United States of America.
The statue was proposed by the American Committee for the Celebration of the Hundredth Anniversary of Peace Among English Speaking Peoples to commemorate the centenary of the end of conflict between the two nations in 1915.
But World War I broke out and so it wasn’t until July, 1920 that this statue, a replica of a statue Auguste Saint-Gauden made for the city of Chicago and now Grade II-listed in its own right, was formally presented to then UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George by the US Ambassador and subsequently unveiled by Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught.
The 12 foot high, larger than life, monument – which includes a granite plinth – depicts Lincoln wearing a frock coat standing in front of his Grecian chair and about to give a speech. The original was completed in 1887 and was unveiled in Chicago’s Lincoln Park with Abraham Lincoln II, grandson of the President, in attendance as well as a crowd of some 10,000.
Interestingly, the UK wasn’t the only nation given a copy of the statue – a replica was also given to Mexico in 1964 and now stands in the Parque Lincoln in Mexico City.
There is also a replica at Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois and in 2016, a newly cast replica of the statue was installed at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site – the former home and studio of the sculptor – in Cornish, New Hampshire. There are also numerous smaller replicas including a bust which is sometimes displayed in the Oval Office in the White House.