National Recording Project

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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Queen Victoria Monument

Summary

Type Cross

     Tall Eleanor-style cross, crown on top: two rows of grey-flecked granite pillars, Octagonal at base, with reliefs of 7 coats of arms - motto: UBI FIDES IBI LUX ET ROBUA. Cheshire: 3 sheaves; motto: ANTIQUI COLANT ANTIQUUM DIERUM. Wales: 4 lions: CYMRU AM BYTH. Ireland: harp, ERIN GO BRAGH. Scotland: single lion: MEMO ME IMPURE LACESSIT. English: 3 lions: DIEU ET MON DROIT. Granite steps rise to each side.
     The erection of the Queen Victoria Memorial was initiated by a special committee, consisting of 20 members. Edmund Kirby, also a member of the committee, did not charge for his design out of patriotic feeling. The memorial was financed by public subscription, which was at first very slow and disappointing. The costs for the memorial were £1400. Mr. Charles Gatehouse first suggested that the Queen Victoria Memorial should be in the shape of an Eleanor Cross. These crosses originally had been dedicated to Eleanor of Castile (1246-1290). Eleanor was the queen consort of King Edward I of England, who ruled 1272-1307. In 1270 she accompanied her husband on a crusade for three years. When Eleanor died in 1290, Edward erected a cross at each place her coffin rested on its way to London. All these crosses were designed in a distinguished shape. According to Turner, "The cross bases are raised on steps, and originally supported tall shafts (...) They are composed of receding tiers, on a polygonal ground-plan, the lower tier solid and the upper with open tabernacles housing large-scale statues of the Queen. The bases are decorated with blind tracery motifs, (...) the Eleanor crosses seem to have been part of Edward I's response to the use of art by the French monarchy for elaborate visual display." The form of the Eleanor Cross was chosen by the Birkenhead Committee in order to express their admiration for Queen Victoria and their mourning for her loss. By the time of the unveiling the memorial was still unfinished. The committee decided to present the incomplete memorial to the public before the Mayor, who was Chairman of the Committee, became retired. Mr. Gatehouse undertook the unveiling ceremony in heavy rain. The memorial was deemed as being the "finishing touch" for Hamilton Square and was appreciated for being in harmony with the Laird statue and the surrounding buildings.
     Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901), the longest reigning monarch in English history, established the monarchy as a respected and popular institution while it was irrevocably losing its place as an integral part of the British governing system. Born in Kensington Palace, London, on May 24, 1819, Victoria was the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent and son of George III, and Princess Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg. Emerging from a lonely, secluded childhood to take the throne on the death of her uncle, William IV, Victoria displayed a personality marked by strong prejudices and a wilful stubbornness. She was strongly attached to the Whig prime minister Lord Melbourne; after he resigned in 1839, Sir Robert Peel, his would-be successor, suggested that she dismiss the Whig ladies of her court. Victoria, however, refused. In part because of this "bedchamber crisis," Melbourne resumed office for two more years. Victoria and her court were greatly transformed by her marriage to her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, in 1840. Although her name now designates a supposedly prudish age, it was Albert who made a point of strait-laced behaviour, and introduced a strict decorum in court. He also gave a more conservative tinge to Victoria's politics, leading her to become close to Peel. The couple had nine children. Victoria populated most of the thrones of Europe with her descendants. Among her grandchildren were Emperor William II of Germany and Alexandra, consort of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Albert taught Victoria the need for hard work if she was to make her views felt in the cabinet, and during the prince's lifetime Victoria did, by insistently interjecting her opinions, force the ministers to take them into account. Opposing the policy of Lord Palmerston of encouraging democratic government on the Continent, for example, she was partly responsible for his departure as foreign secretary in 1851. She also helped form cabinets. Her political importance was based, however, upon the temporarily factionalised state of Commons between 1846 and 1868, when royal intervention was needed to help to glue together majority coalitions. Always prone to self-pity, Victoria fully indulged her grief at Albert's death in 1861. She remained in mourning until her own death, making few public appearances and spending most of each year on the Isle of Wight and in the Scottish Highlands, where her closest companion was a dour Scottish servant, John Brown. Her popularity declined as a result, and republican sentiment appeared during the late 1860s. Victoria, however, regained the people's admiration when she resumed her determined efforts to steer public affairs. She won particular esteem for defending the popular imperialist policies of the Conservative ministries of Benjamin Disraeli, who flattered her relentlessly and made her empress of India in 1876. Conversely, she flayed William E. Gladstone, the Liberal prime minister, whom she intensely disliked, for ostensibly weakening the empire. Although Victoria also attacked Gladstone for encouraging democratic trends, the celebrations of her golden and diamond jubilees in 1887 and 1897 demonstrated her great popularity. In Victoria's later career, her attempts to influence government decisions ceased to carry significant weight. The Reform Act of 1867, by doubling the electorate, strengthened party organisation and eliminated the need for a mediator - the monarch - among factions in Commons. Victoria died on January 22 1901. She was succeeded by her son, Edward VII. Her letters have been published in three series (1907; 1926-28; 1930-32).(1) Verbatim from Southgate.

Inscriptions

VICTORIA / QUEEN / AND / EMPRESS / 1837-1901 / SHE WROUGHT / HER PEOPLE / LASTING GOOD

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Kirby, Edmund Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Steps Newry granite, stone from the Darley Dale Quarries, which was famous for its hardness None
Whole None 2286cm high approx

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
MSWR0039 LL
General condition Good
Surface condition
  • No damage
Structural condition
  • None
Vandalism
  • None
Road Hamilton Square
Precise location near the John Laird Statue, centre of Hamilton Square
A-Z ref 1D 85
OS ref None

Sorry, we have no precise geographical information for this item.

Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1905
Unveiling details 26 October
Commissioned by Monument Committee, Chairman, E.W. Crosbie Oates, Mayor
Duty of care Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Listing status II
At risk? Not at risk

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