Fitting tribute: Plans for monuments to honour Queen’s historic reign unveiledSeptember 8, 2023
For a sovereign so admired and respected, plans for a number of statues and memorials to the late Queen Elizabeth are not only to be welcomed, but expected.
During her 70-year reign, high-profile buildings and projects were named in her honour, notable among them the London Underground’s Elizabeth Line and Elizabeth Tower, which houses the legendary “Big Ben” bell in Westminster.
Since the Queen’s death last September, politicians have called for the construction of a major memorial in central London to mark her status as the country’s longest-serving monarch.
“Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II we have witnessed an extraordinary nationwide, indeed kingdom-wide, response – a moving mix of sorrow at our loss and celebration of a life of remarkable service.
“So that that mood is marked forever and remembrance can last for generations to come, a fitting national memorial needs to be established,” said Conservative MP Sir John Hayes.
He suggested that Trafalgar Square’s famous Fourth Plinth – the setting for numerous high-profile art installations since 1999 – would be an “ideal” location for a statue.
But some believe the Queen’s memorial deserves a superior position.
Sandy Nairne, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery, argued that her statue should not be relegated to “a back corner of Trafalgar Square”.
The Great British Bake Off judge Dame Prue Leith also waded in on the debate, saying, “I don’t think the Fourth Plinth is special enough for the Queen. I think there should be a statue for her outside Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned.”
The decision lies with the royal family, and at the time of writing, no official announcement had been made.
But a representative of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says City Hall “stands ready to support the wishes of the Royal Family in finding the best location for a national memorial that reflects her unique status as the longest serving monarch”.
Initiatives to honour the late Queen with a statue stretch beyond London.
Newcastle-under-Lyme has commissioned Staffordshire artist Andy Edwards to create a one-and-a-quarter times life-size bronze based on her visit to the Staffordshire town on its 800th anniversary in 1973. It is due to be unveiled next year.
Artist Hywel Pratley has completed the clay sculpture for a 7ft bronze statue of the Queen and two of her beloved corgis that will be installed outside Oakham Library in Rutland in time for the first anniversary of her death.
The Scottish Government is said to be considering its own monument to Queen Elizabeth. Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour deputy leader, said, “Her Majesty the Queen touched the lives of people across Scotland and formed a central part of Scotland’s history.
“It is right that we find an appropriate way to mark her profound impact and commemorate her incredible legacy.”
And it is not only statues that are in the works.
There are also talks of a Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Garden, which would see an expanse of Buckingham Palace’s gardens converted into a “natural sanctuary” for the public.
The Queen already has a park named after her – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London – and royal expert Hugo Vickers says it is right to look beyond statues as a tribute to the nature-loving monarch.
“The Queen always liked a gift to her which was also for the use of the general public, so I would have thought that memorial walkways would be a wonderful way of commemorating her,” he says.
“I’m not sure we’re living in an age of statues anyway, with some being pulled down.”
And with royal statues tending to be rather conventional, royal historian Tracy Borman says she would like to see a more modern tribute.
“What really made her heart sing were horses and corgis, so I think it would be nice if she was shown in that way, rather than just the usual very formal statue,” she says.
“If it’s a literal representation of the Queen I personally think it ought to be her at Trooping The Colour – which she absolutely loved – with a horse.”
All agree that the end result must be worthy of the late Queen.
“The main thing is to take time to get it right,” says royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams. “It’s not just a question of it appealing to us now – it needs to be brilliantly thought out.”
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