HL Deb 27 May 1884 vol 288 cc1447-9

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether a proper pedestal would be ready to receive the Duke of Wellington's statue on its arrival at Aldershot, and what sum of money had been subscribed for the purpose? said, the question as to the removal of the statue had never been decided by the House of Commons, who had merely voted the sum of £6,000 for the execution of a new statue by Mr. Boehm, and had refused to reduce that sum by £2,000.


Although I cannot agree with the noble Duke upon this subject, I am bound to say that he made the other evening a most admirable speech in reference to it, presenting very clearly all the arguments that could be urged in support of his view of the; question. I am bound to say, however, that the noble Duke's objection to the removal of the statue is now too late, the site having been already determined upon and the pedestal being in course of preparation. Care will be taken that, in the event of the pedestal not being ready by the time the statue reaches Aldershot, the latter will be carefully housed until the pedestal is prepared for its reception. I am not able to state exactly the amount that has been sub-scribed, but I believe that it will be sufficient to meet all demands.


My Lords, I do not wonder that the noble Duke has put another Question on this subject. The House will be glad to see that he is faithful to the opinions he has previously declared, and which have made so much impression on your Lordships. I rose to make in a few words, however useless it may be, a last remonstrance with Her Majesty's Government. If they remove the statue altogether, they will do so in defiance of one House, and without the sanction of the other. The vote which took place here on the 24th of March may be ambiguous, but there is no ambiguity in that of last Tuesday's. It has but one interpretation. No vote of the House of Commons authorizes the removal. The noble Duke, however, has explained that part of the subject. Money has been granted for a purpose to which the removal is not in any way essential. What I wish more specially to touch on—as it in some degree escapes us—is that the Government, instead of acting on a decision of their own, have gone through a series of concessions, and may go through one more concession with advantage. In deference to others, who agitated about blocks, they encroached on the Green Park and Constitution Hill. In deference to others, they disjoined the statue from the Arch, when their own scheme—as they have since avowed it—was to move them, both together. In deference to others, they contemplated a site opposite the Horse Guards. In deference to others, they were ready with their melting-pot. In deference to others, they lighted upon Aldershot. It would be quite in accordance with this principle to retain the statue where it is—at least, in London—in deference to a larger, a more enlightened and authoritative body than any which has formerly controlled them. It is true they have a decapitated figure in their hands which well betrays the halting counsels they have followed. It is a compromise. But it will be easier to bring the head back to the trunk, than move the trunk by waggons to the country. This compromise has naturally led to some resentment in the capital. Men, without being pedants, are driven back to the Peloponnesian War and the well known mutilation of the Hermae for a parallel. There is a possi- ble defence. The Government have frequently been told, on grounds which I think irresistible, that what they need themselves is the removal of their head without the serious disturbance of their body. They have resolved that such a process, at least, deserves experiment on a bronze figure.


asked the Government whether they could inform the House "what is the present domicile of the head of the colossal statue of the late Duke of Wellington?" describing the decapitated condition in which the statue had been left, and protesting against its removal.


I can assure the noble Lord that the head is carefully preserved within the enclosure which at present surrounds the statue.