I’ve always been a great admirer of the equestrian statue of Richard the First, Coeur de Lion — Lionheart — in Old Palace Yard in front of the Palace of Westminster. It lifts the spirit. I was there yesterday, visiting my old friend Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry. The sun was shining from a clear blue sky, the Palace looked wonderful — like a real parliament — and I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a picture.
The statue was first commissioned in clay for the 1851 Great Exhibition. It was designed by the Italian sculptor Baron (Pietro) Carlo Giovanni Battista Marochetti (1805-1867). I love public art and sculpture, but at the risk of offending my good colleague Martin Callanan MEP (who represents the North East) I have to admit that I prefer Victorian heroics to the Angel of the North.
The statue of Richard was greatly admired in 1851, by John Ruskin amongst others, and a permanent bronze version was subsequently made, funded for £5000 by public subscription. It has recently been refurbished and looks a million dollars (not a bad return on £5000).
It always puts me in mind of those lines of James Elroy Flecker:
Surely for us, as for those nobly dead,
The Kings of England, lifting up their swords,
Shall gather at the Gates of Paradise.