A memorial to Queen Victoria in Hyde Park, Leeds has been spray painted and defaced with words such as ‘racist’, ‘slave owner’ and ‘justice’ in an unprovoked act of sheer vandalism. The monument was defaced following a wave of ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests which have been taking place across the UK following the death of George Floyd in the USA just over a fortnight ago.

The memorial to Queen Victoria in Leeds was designed by Victorian sculptor, George Frampton, and features a large stone plinth with a sculptor of the Queen on top. The statue was first erected in 1905 outside Leeds Town Hall before being moved to another area in the city.

Other words to adorn the statue of one of this country’s greatest Queens included ‘educate’, ‘colonise’ and ‘murderer’.

Incidentally, Queen Victoria became Monarch in 1837, four years after Parliament had passed the Slavery Abolition Act. She was this country’s second longest-reigning Monarch and died in 1901. Her reign saw an expansion of the British Empire, making Britain the most powerful nation in the world.

The vandalism of a Queen Victoria statue comes after a number of campaigns have been set up in recent days asking for the removal of certain statues across the UK. Statues of historical figures with links to slavery are being considered for removal including statues of Cecil Rhodes and Sir Thomas Picton. The review of monuments came from the Local Government Association’s Labour group.

On Tuesday, a statue of slave owner, Robert Milligan, was removed from its plinth at West India Quays in the London Docklands.

Leeds County Council say while they “support freedom of speech” the memorial to Queen Victoria will have its graffiti removed and the monument will be restored.

ROYAL CIRCULAR OPINION

It is ironic that this minority of vandals chose to write the word ‘educate’ across a statue of Queen Victoria, it is they that need to educate themselves before trying to erase this country’s vast history. There is not a King or Queen or in fact a world leader in history who has not had their flaws, Queen Victoria included. However, she presided over a period in our history that saw rapid change – industrially and economically – that transformed the United Kingdom into the country we know today.

As calls come in for statues of Robert Peel, Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson and King Charles II to be tore down, we at Royal Circular ask – Where does this end? Do we erase every bit of British history that was flawed, because believe us, that would not leave much left. Do we begin to attack our Royal Family today because they are descendants of Queen Victoria and King Charles II? Do we forget the ‘Golden Age’ of Queen Elizabeth I because Sir Francis Drake was awarded a knighthood in 1581? Do we just abolish the Monarchy because their Monarchs in the past have acted in a way that was considered the right way centuries ago?

Or do we reflect on the past, learn from the past and accept that this is our island’s history and that no matter how many statues we tear down, no matter how many Kings or Queens we run down and no matter how much vandalism is poured upon this nation’s story – our 1200 year history cannot and should not be erased.

At Royal Circular, we support the Black Lives Matter campaign, we support peaceful protests and we support everyone’s right to voice their opinion. We do not support vandalism, thuggery or the forceful attempts to erase parts of British history through senseless acts of violence, destructiveness and hooliganism. 

We end this by repeating a most famous quote:

“ONE CANNOT  AND MUST TRY NOT TO ERASE THE PAST MERELY BECAUSE IT DOES NOT FIT THE PRESENT” 

Photo: Wikimedia

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