Where should the Queen's statue go?

October 7 2022

There's been much debate over whether a statue of the Queen should be placed on the 'fourth plinth' in Trafalgar Square. It was long being kept vacant for her statue by the powers that be, but some say the revolving programme of contemporary art works being displayed there has become such a success, it should remain.

The Burlington Magazine, in its latest editorial, suggests that the understanding is the Queen's statue will be an equestrian one, given her love of horses. It therefore argues that Trafalgar Square isn't quite right for the Queen since it will be in the company of other equestrian statues of George IV and Charles I, who are hardly happy royal precedents. The Magazine suggests instead a new spot, in St James' park, overlooking the Mall:

Queen Elizabeth is unlikely to have desired either aesthetic or geographical novelty for her monument, so an equestrian statue in St James’s Park, perhaps facing her parents on the far side of the Mall, would be appropriate, especially as it would evoke memories of the Queen’s appearance on her favourite horse, the black mare Burmese, riding down the Mall for Trooping the Colour on her official birthday. There are at least two precedents for exactly such a statue – in the Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Saskatchewan, by Susan Velder (2005) – Burmese was a gift from Canada – and another by Caroline Wallace, a monument due to be erected later this year at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. It is a great pity that when the Mall was laid out to encompass both Admiralty Arch, which commemorates Edward VII, and the memorial to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace, nobody thought that this grand processional road might be developed as a via sacra of royal monuments, but since one strength of a monarchy is that it looks to the long term, it is perhaps not too late.

I think this is a good idea. I had always thought the Queen should go on the Fourth Plinth, partly because I assumed it was her wish. I've also not been a huge fan of the rotating contemporary works, which, really, could be displayed anywhere. It's great to have contemporary works in Trafalgar Square, but to the exclusion of a statue of our longest serving monarch? The plinth's purpose, whether we like it or not, is for a commemorative statue; it is a place of history, and we should think not of what we think about the merits of having a statue of the Queen there, but how it will look like in two or three hundred years time. On the other hand, there's no escaping the fact that Trafalgar Square is really quite grim these days, between the pigeons, the buskers, and the traffic. So I think I'm inclined to agree, something surrounded by trees and nearer the Mall would be better. What do you think?

More discussion here in The Times.

Update - a reader makes this excellent suggestion:

There is a third option. Earmark it instead for a future statue of Charles III. What more fitting backstop could there be for his memorial than the Sainsbury Wing?

The king was also a trustee of the NG for a while.

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