Thursday, April 14, 2011

Royal Wedding Procession Route - 5 statues and memorials of note

image by TrevorLowe

With the Royal Wedding drawing near, London can expect a massive inflow of tourists, both Britons and those who will be flying in from abroad specially for the event. We can expect all eyes will be on Kate Middleton's car as she is driven down The Mall from the Clarence House, which is the official residence of the Princes, to Westminster Abbey where the wedding will be taking place, and then on the horse carriage that will carry the newlyweds back to Buckingham Palace.Rest assured that it'll be a long wait and only the most patient would be rewarded with a front row view.

I was looking up the Royal Wedding Procession route and noted that it passes through five memorial and statues - one on The Mall and four along Whitehall. Just so that you can impress the person standing next to you, here's a summary of the origins of these five memorials and statues from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.

1. Victoria Memorial
This impressive 1911 nautical theme piece by Sir Thomas Brock. It was said that King George V, the grandson of Queen Victoria, which was depicted on the Memorial, was so impressed that he called for a sword and knighted the sculptor on the spot.

image by davidgp

The Memorial, completed with merman, mermaids and hippogriff (offspring of mare and griffin) was meant to suggest the projection of British naval power that watched over the largest empire that the world has ever witnessed. Meant to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria, the longest female reigning monarch in history (over 63 years), the Memorial now sits in front of Buckingham Palace doubling up as a roundabout in the change of guards as well as watching over The Mall.

2. Monument to the Women of World War II
Sculpted by John W. Mills in 2005, is dedicated to the women who took on the jobs traditionally held by men when war engulfed Europe and pretty much the rest of the world in Hitler's bid to create the Third Reich. Seventeen sets of uniforms hung around a simple rectangular block signifying these jobs that supported and formed the backbone of the war effort.

image by preef

Funds for the Monument was raised from the public but the construction of it would not have been possible if not for a single donation of £800,000 by Betty Boothroyd who won it from Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

3. The Cenotaph
Tomb for those without a tomb, The Cenotaph was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and put up between 1919 and 1920 to replace his original identical wood and plaster piece.

image by jboyes

Perhaps what makes the piece the most interesting of the lot is that the Cenotaph's seemingly parallel sides actually converges 300m above the ground. Its top isn't flat as well; it actually forms part of a sphere, which centre is 270m below The Cenotaph itself.

Instead of stone flags, fabric ones are used at The Cenotaph. That allowed the likes of Charlie Gilmour swinging wildly while holding onto the Union Jack during the students' riot in Dec 2010. The history student claimed that he didn't know that it was The Cenotaph - the most important war memorial in Britain.

4. Prince George, Duke of Cambridge

Two equestrian statues stand outside the War Office. The one further north along Whitehall by Adrian Jones commemorates Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge (1819 - 1904). He served as the Commander in Chief of the British Army from 1856 to 1895.

image by thekillerbiscuit

As all equestrian statues go, if the horse stands on all four legs, the rider passed away not in battle but the comfort of his home. The Duke died of stomach haemorrhage at London Piccadilly's Gloucester House. Died without a legitimate heir, the Duke of Cambridge title became extinct thereafter.

5. Earl Haig

Field Marshall Douglas Haig (1861 - 1928)'s equestrian statue was put up to commemorate the famous victory at Somme in World War I. It wasn't there so much to celebrate the Earl who was infamously known as "Butcher Haig" as the British Expeditionary Force suffered its highest loss (around 2 million soldiers) under his charge.

image by ell-r-brown

There were charges about his misguided commands that led hundreds of thousands to their needless deaths at Somme. As military historian Alan Clark put it,"if the dead could march, side by side in continuous procession down Whitehall, it would take them four days and nights to get past the saluting base". Historian Norman Stone pointed out that Haig (a Scot by birth) was perhaps "the greatest of Scottish generals, since he killed the highest numbers of English soldiers at any front in history".

These are the five main statues and memorials that the Royal Wedding Procession would go past on 29th April. There are a handful of others along the sidewalks however. Can you point out which are the ones?

For the interactive map of the Royal Wedding Procession, head to the Royal Parks website. For a walk through of the other notable statues in London, refer to Walking London's Statues and Monuments. If you are dropping by London for the weekend and looking to squeeze as much as possible for your stay, check out London in One Day that I have compiled earlier.

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