10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London – A recap…

We’ve reached the end of our series so before we head into the next one, here’s a recap…

1. King Edward VI at St Thomas’…

2. King George I above St George’s…

3. King Harold Godwinson…

4. King Edward VII…

5. Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster School…

6. King Edward the Confessor and King Henry III…

7. Three Stuart Kings and a Queen… 

8.  King Alfred the Great…

9. Empress Matilda?…

10. Four Queens…

10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…9. Empress Matilda?…

The neo-Gothic former Public Record Office (now the Maughan Library of King’s College) in Chancery Lane is adorned with statues of several kings and queens including two kings – King Edward III and King Henry III – as well as four queens.

PICTURE: Robert Freidus/The Victorian Web (image cropped)

The queens, which can be found at the top of the tower over the main entrance, include three who are represented with more famous statues elsewhere – Queen Elizabeth I (on the facade of St Dunstan-in-the West), Queen Anne (outside of St Paul’s Cathedral) and Queen Victoria (outside Buckingham Palace among others).

But one of those statues – that of the Empress Matilda – is something of an outlier – unlike the others, the Empress Matilda, while she claimed the title of Queen of England, was never actually crowned (her attempt to be crowned at Westminster failed when opposed by the London mob which supported her opponent, King Stephen).

Instead, Matilda (sometimes known as Maud) claimed the title ‘Lady of the English’ and while she was eventually driven out of England to Normandy where she died, her eldest son did take the crown in 1154 as King Henry II.

The statue, which stands on top of the east side of the tower (and is quite difficult to spot), stands 2.4 metres high and was made of Portland stone to adorn the 1850s, now Grade II* listed building (the gatehouse leading to Chancery Lane – which features the two kings – was an extension in the 1890s). It is said to be the work of sculptor Joseph Durham.

What’s a little puzzling is why the Empress was included as one of the four, particularly given other English queens and monarchs – Queen Mary I and II – were not.

10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…8.  King Alfred the Great…

Long thought to have been London’s oldest public statue (and certainly the oldest of a monarch), this statue of Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great stands in a quiet location in Trinity Church Square in Southwark.

The statue prior to conservation work in 2009. PICTURE: Svitapeneela/Wikipedia

The statue – which depicts the bearded king robed and wearing a crown – was believed to have medieval origins with some suggesting it was among those which north face of Westminster Hall since the 14th century and were removed by Sir John Soane in 1825.

But recent conservation work has shown that half of the statue is actually much older. In fact, it’s believed that the lower half of the figure was recycled from a statue dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva and is typical of the sort of work dating from the mid-second century.

Measurements of the leg of the lower half indicate the older statue stood some three metres in height, according to the Heritage of London Trust. It is made of Bath Stone and was likely carved by a stone worker located on the continent. It probably came from a temple.

The top half, meanwhile is made of Coade stone and, given that wasn’t invented by Eleanor Coade until around 1770, the creation of the statue as it appears today is obviously much later than was originally suspected which may give credence to theory that it was one of a pair – the other representing Edward the Black Prince – made for the garden of Carlton House in the late 18th century.

Putting the two parts of the statue together would have required some specialised skills.

The Grade II-listed statue has stood in the square since at least 1826. Much about who created it still remains a mystery. The fact it incorporates a much older statue means the question of whether it is in fact London’s oldest outdoor public statue remains a matter of some debate.

10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…4. King Edward VII…

PICTURE: Nigel Chadwick (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)
PICTURE: Singh (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s a rather incongruous place for a king. Standing outside the entrance to Tooting Broadway Underground Station is a large-than-life statue of King Edward VII, who ruled from 1901-1910.

Erected in 1911 after the King’s death, the statue is the work of Louis Fritz Roselieb (later Roslyn) and was funded through a public subscription.

The statue depicts the King in royal regalia holding a sceptre in his right hand with his left hand resting on his sword hilt. The plinth features bronze reliefs on either side depicting representations of ‘peace’ and ‘charity’.

Given Tooting Broadway Underground Station didn’t open until 1926, the statue wasn’t initially located in relation to it.

In fact, it was originally located on a traffic island a short distance from its current siting but was moved after the area was remodelled in 1994.

It isn’t, of course the only statue of King Edward VII in London – the more well known one can be found in Waterloo Place. It was unveiled by his son, King George V, in 1921.