Plans for a memorial to Queen Elizabeth II will be unveiled in 2026 to mark what would have been her 100th birthday.
The Cabinet Office announced this weekend that Robin Janvrin, Queen Elizabeth's former private secretary, will be chairman of the Queen Elizabeth memorial committee. "It will be a unique challenge to try to capture for future generations Her Late Majesty’s extraordinary contribution to our national life throughout her very long reign," Janvrin said. He will present recommendations to King Charles III and the prime minister.
Following her passing, royal officials and UK ministers are trying to figure out the appropriate location for a memorial to Queen Elizabeth. One contender is Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth in London, but many are unhappy with the suggestion.
Their are four plinths, or large bases for statues, in Trafalgar Square. Two have sculptures of British generals Henry Havelock and Charles James Napier, and a third has one of King George IV. The fourth was intended to hold a statue of King William IV, but that never materialized. Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, said in 2013, "The understanding is that the fourth plinth is being reserved for Queen Elizabeth II."
Since 1998, the so-called Fourth Plinth has exhibited contemporary works. Prue Leith, one of the judges on Great British Bake Off, helped initiate the Fourth Plinth sculpture program. "I am proud of it. If there’s one thing that I’ve done in my life that I would be delighted to see continue, it would be the Fourth Plinth. It’s been hugely successful," Leith told the Guardian.
The 14th sculpture since the program's inception was unveiled in October 2022—a sculpture entitled "Antelope" of Malawian Baptist preacher John Chilembwe, who was killed in an uprising in 1915, standing with a missionary, John Chorley, by artist Samson Kambalu. "Many people may not know who John Chilembwe is. And that is the whole point," Kambalu, an associate professor of fine art at Oxford, told the Evening Standard.
The Fourth Plinth, Leith said, "keeps the debate about contemporary art going and has become part of the national curriculum for children to think about public art. It’s really important that the contemporary stuff stays in the square. Each sculpture has had its fans and its detractors. Even if you hate what’s there, you know it’s coming down next year."
Shortly following Queen Elizabeth's passing, Conservative former minister John Hayes floated the idea to the House of Commons to use the Fourth Plinth for a statue of the late 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," Hayes said. "So that that mood is marked forever and remembrance can last for generations to come, a fitting national memorial needs to be established. Will the Leader of the House therefore agree with me that a statement be brought to this House on what form that memorial might take? For me, a statue on the final plinth on Trafalgar Square would be ideal."
Yet, not all politicians agreed with this suggestion. Conservative MP David Jones told Express, "It needs to be sufficiently prominent and in my view being one of four statues in Trafalgar Square is not good enough. You can’t have her statue at a lower level than Lord Nelson."
Artists, too, pushed back against the idea that the Fourth Plinth is a fitting spot for a tribute to Queen Elizabeth. "Through many of the amazing artistic contributions over the years I think the Fourth Plinth has become The People’s Plinth and is no longer a suitable site for celebrating members of the royal family," artist Michael Elmgreen, who has previously displayed on work on the plinth, told The Art Newspaper.
Leith, too, is against the idea, 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." Sandy Nairne, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery, echoed the concerns of others, saying, "There’s no way a back corner of Trafalgar Square is appropriate. Just think of the scale of the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. I’m not suggesting something as huge as that, but she had a longer reign than Queen Victoria."
Ultimately, however, the decision about the memorial lays with the royal family. "A statue of the Queen at a suitable location in London is a matter for the royal family to consider, and of course the Greater London Authority stands ready to support them in their wishes," the Greater London Authority said in a statement. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he will support the royals in their decision, which "includes using the fourth plinth if that is the royal family’s preference."
In March 2023, City Hall politicians said a new statue of the late Queen should be in a "prominent, public location in London." A spokeswoman for Mayor Khan said, "The Mayor wants to see a lasting and fitting tribute in London to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 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."
No decision has been made for a location of a permanent memorial to Queen Elizabeth.
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