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Statue of Charles II, Soho Square

Charles II
The statue in 2015
Artist Caius Gabriel Cibber
Year c. 1680–1
Dimensions 195 cm (Script error: No such module "convert".)
Location Soho Square, City of Westminster, London, England, United Kingdom

The statue of Charles II is an outdoor sculpture of Charles II of England by the Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber, located near the centre of Soho Square in London.[1]


File:Soho Square. Wellcome L0001685.jpg
The statue at the centre of Soho Square, c. 1700

The statue was once the centrepiece of a fountain erected in the middle of the square in 1681, each corner of which had statues of river gods representing the Thames, Severn, Humber and Tyne.[2] The water, which was pumped by a windmill in nearby Rathbone Place, flowed from jugs into a large basin. It appears to have been one of a number of works by Cibber that stood in the square.[3] By the early 19th century, the statue was described as being "in a most wretched and mutilated state; and the inscriptions on the base of the pedestal quite illegible".[4]

In 1875–6 the square underwent substantial changes to its layout, during which the badly deteriorated statue was removed and the fountain demolished. The statue was rescued by Thomas Blackwell of the condiment firm Crosse & Blackwell, who had offices in the square. He gave it to his friend, the artist Frederick Goodall, with the intention that it might be restored.[4] The present half-timbered gardener's shed took the statue's place at the centre of the square. Goodall installed the statue on an island in a lake at Grim's Dyke, his house near Harrow Weald; he wrote that "in the twilight it looks very mysterious and weird with its reflection in the water."[3] It remained there when the dramatist W. S. Gilbert purchased the property in 1890, and there it stayed after his death in 1911, despite a request from Crosse & Blackwell for the statue's return, which Gilbert apparently ignored.[3] Gilbert's widow agreed to bequeath the statue to the committee responsible for the square's upkeep and following her death it was duly moved back to the square, where it now stands a short distance north of its original site.[2]


The statue portrays Charles in a standing pose, left hand on hip, with his head turned to the right and wearing a long wig. He is shown wearing some body and thigh armour and a heavy long cloak at the back, and formerly held a baton in his right hand. The low pedestal once had an inscription on it, but this became illegible as long ago as 1815, leading to some dispute at that time about whom the statue was meant to represent. As the square was once called Monmouth Square, some people erroneously supposed the statue to represent Charles' favoured illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. By the 1920s it was described as "black with age".[5] The pedestal's decorative carvings comprise a crown in relief surmounting scroll motifs on the front and rear, with each side depicting a crown surmounting crossed sceptres and a decorative riband.[3]

Both the statue and pedestal are in poor condition and are seriously eroded, especially around the face and right arm. The baton once held in the right hand has disappeared. The original face has been replaced with a mask-like substitute that has been cemented on (possibly during restoration work in the 1930s), the left arm and leg are both broken, and some time before 1987 the entire statue was covered in a concrete wash which has now either been removed or worn away by the elements.[3]


  1. ^ "Statue: Charles II statue". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Matthews, Peter (2012). London's Statues and Monuments. Oxford: Shire Publications. p. 97. ISBN 9780747807988. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Ward-Jackson, Philip (2011). Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster: Volume 1. Public Sculpture of Britain. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. pp. 250–2. 
  4. ^ a b "Soho Square Area: Portland Estate: Soho Square Garden" in Survey of London volumes 33 and 34 (1966) St Anne Soho, pp. 51–53. Date accessed: 5 January 2015.
  5. ^ Gleichen, Edward (1928). London's Open-Air Statuary. London: Longman, Greens & Co. pp. 219–20. 

External links

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