The two Queens of Fleet Street

This week Scotland goes to the polls
in the most decisive vote in our nation’s history.

At stake is nothing less than the breakup of the Union, which has existed for over 300 years, between England and Scotland, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

Will Scotland become a nation state or will it remain part of the United Kingdom?

[B]efore a ’United Kingdom’ was forged two women fought for dominance over their respective territories. And curiously their effigies are to be found in London only a few yards apart.

Mary Queen of Scots

In Fleet Street Mary Queen of Scots House was built in 1905 for a Scottish insurance company. The Queen’s statue was the idea of the developer John Tollemache Sinclair, who was a big fan of the ill-fated lady.

The architect, R. M. Roe, concocted a facade as frilly as a doily with lashings of French flamboyant tracery. Sadly, the carver of the statue is unknown.

The likeness seems to be the only outside memorial of Mary to be found south of the Border which lead to recent demands for a statue to be erected in Scotland.

Ironically, it stands just along the road from a figure of her nemesis, Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth

Hidden inside the courtyard of St. Dunstan-in-the-West a little further along Fleet Street is this effigy of Queen Elizabeth I. This is the only known statue of Elizabeth to have been carved during her lifetime and dates from 1586.

The statue however has had a more glorious past than this obscure churchyard where it has now stood for over 170 years. The statue once stood proudly near the bottom of Ludgate Hill, beside the ’Lud’ Gate, dedicated to King Lud – the mythical King, who according to legend founded London.

Beside the gatehouse was the famous Ludgate prison. After being severely damaged during the Great Fire of London the prison and gate were demolished in 1760. The statue at that time was placed in the basement of a nearby pub for safety.

Forgotten for almost a century and re-discovered by workmen whilst demolishing the pub in 1839.

Eventually Queen Elizabeth was bought by the Marquis of Hertford, along with the statues of King Lud, Androgeus and Tenvantius taken from the same ancient gateway.

These statues once seen by thousands are kept relatively hidden inside the churchyard, a final resting place in the alcove of obscurity.

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