Keeping a Head on your Shoulders!

South of Trafalgar Square, at Charing Cross, there is a statue of Charles 1 mounted on a stallion As you may know Charles I had some trouble keeping his head on his shoulders and despite his belief in being King of England, by “Divine Right”, he got on the wrong side of a lot of people, including Oliver Cromwell. This led to his being executed on January 30, 1649. There are many stories about what happened to his body and to his head, with one being that his head was collected and sewn back onto his body before he was buried. He was buried in a vault at Windsor Castle with Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. Cromwell was using Windsor as a prison for Royalists at the time and no doubt thought that was an appropriate place to dispose of the monarch’s body.

But what happened to the statue of him mounted on the impressive stallion? It was sold to a metalsmith, John Rivet, who was instructed by the Parliament to have it melted down. But John Rivet did not follow these orders! He kept the statue intact and hidden. He produced a few pieces of broken brass as proof he had carried out the orders. He also sold quite a few brass handled pieces of cutlery, claiming they were made from melted down statue, as further proof! He revealed the statue again at the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy with Charles II in 1660.

The statue was placed in its’ current location , on an elaborate plinth, in 1675. In a curious but amusing twist it faces down Whitehall, towards Charles I place of Execution, at the Banqueting house!

And another thing…..its’ location at Charing Cross is also significant as Charing Cross is considered the center of London and all distances are measured from this point.

Just behind Charles I is Traflagar Square and the column of Nelson. From some perspectives it looks like Nelson is looking down right at Charles 1. As a side note……if Britain had lost WWII the Germans had plans to take the column of Nelson and place it in front of the Reichstag as a symbol of superiority and victory! So an executed monarch and a victorious Admiral stand today, heads on their shoulders and looking proud. Cue music! Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory would do nicely I think. And what better than the last night of the Proms.

18 Comments Add yours

  1. cigarman501 says:

    Fun history lesson!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tina Schell says:

    Fun post Anne. Methinks you were more interested in the horse than the rider LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Methinks you maybe correct Tina! 😊

      Like

  3. Irene says:

    Enjoyed reading all the history behind this statue. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you. It has a story to tell that statue

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great to know some history here . Always horses carries valuable informations .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is a magnificent statue.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Emma Cownie says:

    I knew people hid religious statues during the reformation but I did not know that statues of Charles I were hidden too. Such a massive thing to hid too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Indeed, I presume he had a warehouse of some sort and hid it somehow. I guess he may have decided it could come in usefull later when things swung back to Royals.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Perhaps he just could not bear the destroy that which he had worked so hard to create.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          The statue is attributed to a French sculptor. I think John Rivet was more of a scrap metal person. But possibly a Royalist.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Emma Cownie says:

            Most likely a Catholic too, so probably not at sympathetic to the Puritan Parliamentarians!!

            Liked by 1 person

  7. It is so nice to have the real story told by your post… brings the statue to life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It does and not every stature has such a colorful past! Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  8. Alli Farkas says:

    All I could think of while reading this was, wow, that’s one heck of a shank on that bit…😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes! Isn’t it!! Last year I did an Arms and Armouries tour that was organized by the person who is the curator of Armour at the Tower. I saw bits in several collections including the Tower and the shanks were 8 to 10 inches long! and the bits were very different with lots of rolling peices for the horses to work with. But they were serious!

      Like

  9. Very fun post! That’s a great story about the statue, I wonder where Mr. Rivet hid a thing that size?! Apart from the politics, and I’m a diehard Roundhead, I’m glad he saved it, it’s very handsome. And “Rivet” is a great name for a metalworker. I always thought it was a shame that the equestrian statue of George III in NYC, which was made of lead, was melted down for bullets during the Revolution. I think only the horse’s tail was saved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I did not know this about the statue of George III. And yes the name Rivet is so good as to make it almost suspect! But on the other hand in those days a name that reflected your occupation was more common. Thanks for this entertaining comment.

      Like

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