diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Trafalgar Square (3): Three plinths

NE: King George IV (pictured left) - vain royal braggart on horseback
SE: Henry Havelock (pictured centre) - ruthless subduer of the subcontinent
NE: Charles James Napier (pictured right) - obscure hook-nosed army general

With all the fuss surrounding Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth, it's easy to overlook the three blokes who've been looking down from the other three corners of the square since the mid 19th century. King George IV has a good excuse to be here - as Prince Regent he commissioned both the square and the broad sweeping avenue of Regent Street further to the northwest. His statue was intended for Marble Arch but ended up here temporarily in 1840 and has remained ever since. It's harder today to argue for the presence of Havelock and Napier, both alpha-male empire-building army generals. Indeed the crowds celebrating Divali in the Square last weekend might not have been impressed to discover how these two oppressors subjugated their ancestors in the subcontinent a century and a half earlier. But these were fairly revolutionary statues in their time, celebrating meritocracy rather than the usual aristocracy, and it would be a shame to see them displaced to reflect modern values. One spare plinth is quite enough to be playing around with, and heaven knows who we might be lumbered with in their place.

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