Vic Keegan’s Lost London 11: Charles I versus Oliver Cromwell

Vic Keegan’s Lost London 11: Charles I versus Oliver Cromwell

You have to know that it is there. Situated rather high up the wall on the eastern side of Saint Margaret’s Church, opposite Westminster Hall, is a lead bust of King Charles I, found in a Fulham junk yard in around 1945 by Hedley Hope-Nicholson, secretary of the Society of King Charles the Martyr. Yes, they want to make Charles a saint. 

Hope-Nicholson donated the sculpture to the church in the 1950s. It is poignantly positioned because on the other (western) side of the church, most of the regicides who signed his death warrant are buried under the lawn between St Margaret’s and Westminster Abbey. 

Look behind you in the direction of Westminster Hall and see that Charles is staring across the road at a statue of none other than Oliver Cromwell, his executioner, erected much earlier, in 1899, at a cost of £500 in the face of furious opposition from Irish MPs.

Another bust of Charles found in the same place at the same time – one account says there were three in that Fulham junkyard altogether – is located nearby in Whitehall at the Banqueting House, where Charles was executed in 1649. And further on, at Charing Cross, is another likeness of Charles, this one a statue of him on a horse, probably cast in the 1633 and the oldest equestrian statue in London.

And so, centuries after his death, Charles is taking a long look at Cromwell and at the place of his demise. Civil wars never end, they just change their tactics.

Previous instalments of Vic Keegan’s Lost London are here. His latest book of London poems can be bought here.

Categories: Culture, Lost London

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