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Earl Haig Memorial

The Earl Haig Memorial, with the Banqueting House in the background

The Earl Haig Memorial is a bronze equestrian statue of the British Western Front commander Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig on Whitehall in Westminster. It was created by the sculptor Alfred Frank Hardiman and commissioned by Parliament in 1928. Eight years in the making, it aroused considerable controversy, the Field Marshal's riding position, his uniform, the anatomy and stance of the horse all drawing harsh criticism. The inscription on the statue base reads 'Field Marshal Earl Haig Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France 1915–1918'.

History

Hardiman had won the commission in competition with his fellow sculptors Gilbert Ledward[1] and William Macmillan. His winning model showed Haig riding a classical charger befitting a hero, derived from Hardiman's studies of renaissance equestrian sculpture. The Press and Lady Haig weighed in, asking why Earl Haig could not be portrayed with realism riding his own horse, Poperinghe. Eventually Hardiman was asked to produce a second model, but in trying to accommodate his critics the sculptor produced a compromise that pleased no-one. The design went back to Cabinet and they were persuaded to allow him a free hand in the execution of the full-sized statue, George Lansbury writing: "I feel confident that if your genius is unfettered you will give us a memorial worthy of the Field Marshal, the nation and yourself".[2] The memorial was unveiled by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester on 10 November 1937, with King George VI laying a wreath at the base on Armistice Day.[3]

The memorial has received some support in recent years but has also found itself the target of criticism. In the run-up to Remembrance Day 1998 the Daily Express attacked the memorial on its front-page, asking "Why do we let this man cast a shadow over our war dead?".[4] On 4 June 2020 soldiers from the Household Cavalry were recorded scrubbing graffiti from the memorial, following a Black Lives Matter protest.[5]

References

  1. ^ "Ledward, Gilbert (1888–1960) Sculptor – Your Archives". yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  2. ^ George Lansbury to Alfred Hardiman, 5 February 1931, TNA WORK 20/186
  3. ^ Henry Moore Institute. "Henry Moore Institute". henry-moore-fdn.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2009-01-12.
  4. ^ "Why do we let this man cast a shadow over our war dead?". Daily Express. 6 November 1998.
  5. ^ Bird, Steve (2020-06-04). "Soldiers from Household Cavalry abused as they clean up after protesters deface war memorial". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-06-04.

External links