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2020-08-21 12:22:57

The mighty king of beasts in Britain: London Lions

The mighty king of beasts in Britain: London Lions

The king of beasts, a lion, a symbol of power, authority and greatness of everything was respected by royal persons - they tried to make him their symbol and emphasize their importance. London, as a stronghold of the British monarchy, also did not do without lions - walking around the English capital, you can find many "lion" images, and today let's look at the most significant of them.

Trafalgar Square - Admiral Nelson's Lions

The most famous London lions guard Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, and every tourist in the English capital is photographed with them.

The famous Battle of Trafalgar is an important page in British history. On October 21, 1805, a naval battle took place between Great Britain and the Franco-Spanish coalition: Britain did not lose a single ship (despite the fact that it was inferior in strength to the fleet), but the opponents lost 21 ships. Great Britain secured the title of mistress of the seas, but lost the main character, Admiral Nelson, who was killed by a musket shot.

Of course, they could not but honor such a hero: King William IV's London square was quickly renamed Trafalgar Square, and in 1843 in its center there was a huge column (46 meters) with a statue of Admiral Nelson (5.5 meters) - it took as much as 3 of the year. And who should the great commander be appointed as guards if not lions?

But here everything did not go so smoothly and simply. At first, Thomas Milnes was appointed sculptor, but his lions did not seem majestic and formidable enough, so the project went to the artist Edwin Landseer. At that time, Landseer was very popular as an animal painter, made friends with Dickens and Thackeray (and they say that with Queen Victoria!), Earned a knighthood and "exhibited" in the royal palace. Landseer agreed to the honorary offer, but realized that the work would be difficult: he had never done sculptures before. But his sketches were approved, and for 4 years the artist watched the lions at the London Zoo, noticed the features of the body and plasticity of his domestic cats and dogs, even asked the zoo, when one of the lions died, to bring the body of the animal to his workshop! True, the legend says that he did not have time to fully finish the work from life - apparently, um, the dead lion quickly became inappropriate ... Skeptics still grumble that the statues are different from a real lying lion, and the paws resemble a dog's - but history has set everything in their places.

In 1867, 4 statues of lions were installed around the column for eternal guard. Moreover, each of the sculptures is unique, they are not copies of the same "model"! And two more interesting facts about Trafalgar Lions:

  • The British sense of humor is ineradicable: bronze from French naval guns captured at Trafalgar was used to cast lions
  • By the way, about the eternal guard: they say that if the clock on Big Ben strikes 13 times, the lions will come to life ...

Buckingham Palace - Queen Victoria's Lions

Queen Victoria is one of the most respected and beloved British monarchs: she ruled from 1837 to 1901, during the heyday of the British Empire, the industrial revolution and the prosperity of the population. In 1911, a beautiful memorial for the beautiful queen was erected opposite Buckingham Palace, which is guarded by 4 large bronze lions. Next to each of them is a symbolic sculpture:

  • A peasant woman in a simple dress with a sickle and an armful of corn - a symbol of a prosperous agriculture
  • A blacksmith in a working apron and with a hammer - the flourishing of production and industry
  • A young man holding a flaming torch - a symbol of progress, Promethean fire
  • A woman with an olive branch in her hand is the personification of the world.

Westminster Bridge - South Bank's Red Lion

A huge 13-ton predator is located at the eastern entrance to Westminster Bridge. Unlike the previous examples, it is not made of metal, but of stone - albeit white. Why is it red?

Here you need to go a little deeper into history. In the 18th century, industrialists tried to find the ideal stone material for statues, monuments and buildings, experimenting with repeated firing of clay and other natural substances. The owner of the plant, Eleanor Coade, achieved success: she managed to make an extremely plastic mixture that easily fell into any shape and was incredibly resistant to any precipitation, temperature changes and other vagaries of English weather. Such a stone became wildly popular in Britain - a great many facades were faced with it, statues and monuments were created from it.

In 1837, the Lion Brewery commissioned 2 lions from Code Stone for its own parapet on the banks of the Thames. Alas, the Code stone began to lose its relevance with the development of progress and new materials, and the brewery closed by 1924, and by 1949 the building was demolished. However, the lions survived: their beauty and majesty were appreciated, and one of them was transferred to the Waterloo station. It was then that he was painted red! Already in 1966, the paint was removed and the lion was transferred to the South Bank, where it is today. The second lion acquired its "natural" golden color and began to greet fans at the "Twickenham" stadium, becoming a popular gathering place and photographs.

Thames Embankment, Vauxhall Bridge

On both sides of the embankment of Albert and Victoria, several lion heads are installed - and they carry not only a decorative function, but also a very useful practical one. The lion's head project was commissioned by Sir Joseph Baseljet from Timothy Butler in 1868: with their help, Sir planned to measure the water level in the Thames. London, like many other cities lined with deep rivers, often suffered from devastating floods: lions' heads were equipped with strong mooring rings so that rescue boats could "cling" to them, and their mouths served as water level indicators. The British even came up with the proverb When the lions drink, London will sink - but since the 1980s, lions on the Thames regularly "drink" river water (during spring and autumn floods) but London is not in danger.

New Bond Street - Sotheby's ancient lioness

This is the oldest depiction of a lion (more precisely, a lioness) in London. A sculpture of the ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, who was depicted as a lioness, is installed above the entrance to the building of the legendary auction house "Sotheby's": the statue itself dates from about 1320 BC. (that is, it is more than 3000 years old!), and it came to Sotheby's in the 1880s.

The lioness was put up for auction, where an unknown buyer paid 40 £ for it ... but never came to pick it up. He would only know that by 2020 it will be estimated at 3.5 million pounds! Honest auctioneers stored it in the cellars on Wellington Street, then moved it to a new location, New Bond Street, and then got tired of waiting and put a beautiful ancient bust right above the entrance. Many researchers say that today it is the oldest private monument and the oldest public sculpture in London.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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