KING EDWARD

 

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Michelle McCosker has given Edward a bouquet of flowers and an enormous feather in his hat both referencing his reputation as a ladies man. He was also a very stylish dresser always being ahead of the fashion trends and having a whole era of fashion-style named after him (The Edwardian times). This is shown in both his horse’s leggings designed by Michelle and knitted by Popi Silk and the horse’s golden shoes, again designed by Michelle and crafted by the wonderful Alex Dunwoodie. Michelle has also given him a big red turban which references his title as the Emperor of India.

His cape is made of a screen-printed fabric designed by Bronwyn Bancroft. Please read below for the rest of the story on this design. She told Michelle she wanted the cape to have a huge collar, like a frill necked lizard, and so, after a lot of internal reinforcing, voila!

About King Edward VII

Edward reigned from 1901 until his death in 1910. Before his came to the throne at the age of 60, Edward held the title of Prince of Wales and was heir apparent to the throne for longer than anyone else in history. During the long widowhood of his mother, Queen Victoria, he was largely excluded from political power and came to personify the fashionable, leisured elite. His mother blamed him for his father’s death as Albert had gone to visit Edward at Cambridge to reprimand him for a dalliance with an actress in Ireland when he contracted the typhoid which killed him. She famously said of her son “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder”. Edward acquired a reputation as a womaniser with at least 55 known affairs including actress Lillie Langtry and Alice Keppel who was a great-grandmother of Camilla Parker-Bowles. Edward’s reign coincided with the start of a new century and heralded significant changes in technology and society, including powered flight, and the rise of socialism and the Labour movement. Edward reputedly played a role in the modernisation of the British Home Fleet, the reform of the Army Medical Services, and the reorganisation of the British Army after the Boer War. He fostered good relations between Great Britain and other European countries, especially France, for which he was popularly called ‘Peacemaker’. He died after less than ten years on the throne and the Edwardian era named after him saw the rise of art, fashion, leisure and travel. It later seemed to be the last period of innocence and happiness before the wholesale slaughter of World War I.

About the Sculptor

Sir Thomas Brock was born in Worcester. He exhibited numerous works at the Royal Academy after studying and he is best known for his public monuments and statuary in London, especially the Victoria Memorial in Buckingham Palace. Although schooled in the classical tradition he successfully made the transition to the ‘New Sculpture’ era around 1900. Brock received a knighthood in 1911.

About the Statue

In 1910 Edward’s death was reported in Sydney newspapers as an abrupt termination of an active reign and Sydney was described as a city in mourning. In 1911 a public appeal was launched to erect a statue of King Edward and it was decided that it would be an equestrian statue in Queens Square facing down the central avenue of Hyde Park and flanked by his parents Victoria and Albert. The War intervened and all British foundries were busy with armament manufacture. By 1919 it finally became possible to cast the statue, although the cost had blown out by 1200 pounds over the original estimate of 12,000 pounds. The Council decided to abandon plans to completely remodel Queens Square to accommodate the new statue, and instead decided to install it in front of the Conservatorium facing down Bridge Street. The statue was unveiled on Empire Day, 24th May 1922.

The Sydney Morning Herald described the location of the unveiling as a ‘fair domain…On one side are Government House and its picturesque grounds, with the blue waters of the harbour in the distance to give added grace to the setting: on the other side is the long sweep of lawn bordering the Botanic Gardens and in front with a view through Bridge St is a vista of one of our finest thoroughfares, Macquarie Street.’

Indeed Edward’s statue is in a commanding position of the surrounding land and is the last statue on the tour of Sydney Statues: Project!

About his cape

Edward’s cape has been designed and silk screened by Bronwyn Bancroft, with an image entitled ‘The Bow Legged Man’. This is a traditional stance taken by Aboriginal people against invasion, arms interlinked and legs bowed by never not resisting.

Bronwyn, born in Tenterfield, is a Djanbun clan member of the Bundjalung Nation. She is a visitor to the land of the Gadigal people and acknowledges their ancestors and the continuation of their culture. She has a particular passion to elevate the status of Aboriginal people in this State ‘first colonized, last recognised’, in her own words “so that people regard us with the respect we deserve as Survivors and acknowledge the great struggles of our ancestors”.

The land of the Gadigal people from south of Port Jackson stretches from South Head to Petersham. The Gadigal would have been present and witnessed the arrival of the First Fleet and the settlement of Sydney. They would still have had a strong presence during the lives of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Around the time of King Edward there would still have been a small population of Aboriginies living in the city area but many would have been assimilated.

From the King Edward statue one can just make out Bennelong Point, sign posted by the huge Opera House sails. Bennelong Point was named Cattle Point by white settlers, where the stock from the First Fleet were landed. The Aboriginal name was Tobegully. Later the point was named after Bennelong, a member of the Guringai tribe who was captured by Governor Phillip as part of his plan to learn the language and customs of the local people. He soon adopted European dress and ways and learned English and even travelled to England.  A hut was built for him there in 1791, at the request of Governor Phillip.

A more contemporary site important to the Gadigal people are the ‘Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters’ in the Botanical Gardens. They are an award winning display that interprets the Aboriginal cultural heritage, surrounded by native vegetation that would have exsited around Sydney harbour.

Also nearby is the Garden Palace, inside the Botanical Gardens. It was built to house the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879. When the exhibition was over the main building was used as a repository for a lot of significant artefacts and artworks, including materials and resources relating to Aboriginal people from the time of first contact. The great fire in 1882 destroyed this very valuable collection. Today little material remains to tell the story of Aboriginal Sydney because European settlers were keen collectors of traditional weapons and tools and either had them on display in the Garden Palace or sent them back to England.

This tour tells the story of these statues, many of which have never set foot in Australia. So we ask at the end, which statue would you like to see built next? Paul Keating? Charlie Perkins? Dawn Fraser? Clover Moore? Who is relevant to you and to your own understanding of this city and our collective history?

Archive research by Anne-Maree Whitaker

Additional research by Brendan Phelan and Imogen Semmler

Indigenous Consultant Cathy Craigie

Sources

Further Reading

  • Hibbert, Christopher, Edward VII, a portrait (London; Allen Lane, 1976)
  • Holmes, Richard R., Sir Edward VII: his life and times (Lond Amalgamated Press, 1911)
  • ‘King Edward VII Statue’ in The Scottish Australasian, vol 12, May 1922

 

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