Vic Keegan’s Lost London 66: The statue that was too big for its boots

Vic Keegan’s Lost London 66: The statue that was too big for its boots

At nine metres high, the Duke of Wellington statue built to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Waterloo was the largest equestrian statue in Britain. Designed by Decimus Burton and built out of metal from cannon captured during the Napoleonic Wars, it was placed on top of what was originally called the Green Park Arch, another Burton design, at Hyde Park Corner in 1846. It isn’t there any more.

The statue’s great size attracted widespread hostility. The Duke himself, who was also twice Prime Minister and three times leader of the Lords, felt rather differently, and the statue was deferentially left in place until 30 years after his death in 1852. When the arch, now known as the Wellington Arch or Constitution Arch, was moved about 100 yards to its present location in 1882-83, the giant statue was not replaced, and in 1885, it was moved to a new site near the garrison church in Aldershot, where it still stands today. 

In London a smaller – though still large – statue of the Duke on horseback was positioned nearby, opposite his residence, Number One, London while the arch is now topped by a four-horse chariot or quadriga. There was a second Burton arch in vicinity of the first. That too was relocated. Today, we know it as Marble Arch. As for Wellington, he left his mark on the English language as well as the battlefield and politics. It was he who coinde the phrase “public and be damned” in response to a mistress threatening to spill the beans.

Categories: Culture, Lost London

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