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Cabbie’s Curios: Trafalgar Square’s American Patch

Whenever I have American tourists in my cab I always enjoy pointing out the statue of George Washington which stands outside the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.

George Washington Statue, Trafalgar Square

George Washington Statue, Trafalgar Square

Unveiled on the 30th June 1921, the statue was a kind gift from the United States and is in fact a replica, based upon Frenchman, Jean Antoine Houdon’s marble version (commissioned in the 1790s by Thomas Jefferson) which can be seen in Richmond, Virginia.

The original Washington Statue, Virginia (image: Wikipedia)

The original Washington Statue, Virginia (image: Wikipedia)

The statue shows Washington resting upon a ‘fasces’; a collection of wooden rods which the Romans employed as a symbol of authority. There are thirteen sticks in Washington’s bundle, representative of America’s original thirteen states.

The sticks which represent the thirteen original states

The sticks which represent the thirteen original states

As the Commander In Chief during the War of Independence and of course, the first ever President of the United States, George Washington is once rumoured to have said, “I will never set foot in London again!

Portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart Williamstown, painted shortly before Washington's death

Portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart Williamstown, painted shortly before Washington’s death

It is said that those responsible for installing Washington’s statue in London bore the legendary President’s sentiment in mind- and so arranged for a quantity of Virginian soil to be placed beneath the plinth, thus ensuring that the statue is technically on American turf

Washington in London

George Washington, casting his gaze across Trafalgar Square

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6 responses

  1. Wow, feeling pretty dumb at the moment as I’m a) American and b) a fairly frequent visitor to London who’s passed the National Gallery many times. Duh…

    1. Many thanks for the comment, Emily. Hope you know that that other great American, Benjamin Franklin once live close by on Craven Street? His house is now a museum which you can visit 🙂

  2. I misread the article first time as: “The statue shows Washington resting upon faeces…”

    1. Yes, I must admit I did have to check that spelling a few times!

  3. […] Still on things American, our favourite London cabbie brings us news of a small piece of America in Trafalgar Square. […]

  4. You probably know this already, but the Latin word ‘Fasces’ is the origin of Fascist, as the Italian ‘Fascisti’ took this Roman symbol for their own use in symbolism and propaganda. Not relevant to GW at all, just thought I would throw it in…
    Regards, Pete.

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