Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A beautiful statue of an ugly Queen

If Cubbon Park is named after a British officer who was never involved in its construction, one of the most beautiful statues is named after a person who never visited India, let alone Bangalore.
Sir Mark Cubbon never set his eyes on the park and he died a very ill man in the Suez in Egypt. Similarly, the statue of this individual still manages to draw “oohs” and “aahs” for its beauty but back in England, the person on whom the statue is modeled was considered to be fat and ugly.
The person who, the statue is modeled never set foot in India. Yet poets and writers eulogised the beauty and regal bearing and even wrote realms about the person.
The statue is that of  Queen Victoria who once ruled the world and she was the Empress of a Kingdom where the Sun never set or so the British thought and how wrong it proved to be. The Queen was also the Empress of India and she took this title very seriously.
She was the monarch of  the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837 until her death on January 22, 1901. She was also the Empress of India from May 1, 1876, a title that Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) gave her to curry favour from the Empress.
Victoria became the Queen by chance. Her mother was a German and she inherited the English throne at the age of 18 after her father’s three elder brother died, leaving no legitimate heir.
Called Alexandrina Victoria, she married her cousin Price Albert of Saze-Coburg and Gotha in 1840.
The statue of Victoria in Cubbon Park was unveiled on February 5 1906 by George Frederick Ernest Albert, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and York. He later became King George, the fifth.
The function to mark the unveiling was a fairly big one.
The statue today is more than 107 years old and this is one of the five remaining statues of the Empress in India. Before Independence in 1947, there were more than 50 statues of Victoria but many of them have vanished.
Strangely, the Victoria statue unveiled by George Frederick Albert was not his first. He had already unveiled several statues and memorials of the Empress not only in India but in several countries that were ruled by the British. The Prince left Bangalore for Karachi where he once again unveiled a huge statue of Victoria.
The Mysore Kingdom seem to have taken their fascination of Victoria to an unprecedented level. The diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria's coronation in 1897 was first celebrated in Bangalore and Mysore, four months ahead of the event back in England. The Wodeyars issued commemorative flags and the people of South India sent her pleasantries.
The Wodeyars always respected Queen Victoria as it was she who made Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar's mother the regent of Mysore for which the family was always grateful.
The Wodeyars also built the Victoria Hospital in Bangalore in memory of the Empress.
Coming back to the statue, it was constructed following a generous donation from the Wodeyars and  Frederick Ernest Albert alluded to it in the function.
There is a strange story about how the statue came up in Bangalore. Soon after her death on 1901, committees sprang up everywhere to discuss the most appropriate manner win which her memory could be commemorated. Bangalore set up a  Queen Victoria Memorial Fund  and it first met a little over a year after the Victoria died.
The committee decided to unveil her statue and it was funded by public subscription. But even six months after the fund raising activity wads commissioned, the public had only contributed Rs 10,000. In the end, the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, gave a generous grant but he died before the statue was unveiled.
It was Thomas Brock  of England who was given the task of  constructing the statue. Brock also built the magnificent Victoria Memorial in front of the Buckingham Palace in London.
Brock went to work in England and made an 11-foot-tall marble statue, which  along with its 13-foot granite pedestal then cost Rs 25,500. It was shipped from England and arrived in Bangalore on July 1905.
Brock also sculpted Victoria statues for Agra, Kanpur and Lucknow. He soon became a Victoria statue expert and he built 14 of them.
The Bangalore statue has Victoria dressed in flowing robes and with an orb and sceptre. However, the orb has lost its cross and the scepter is broken.
Today, the Empress who was widely known as ugly and fat in her home country, is widely admired for the beauty of her statue. You can see the beautiful Victoria from the MG road-Queens Road side of Cubbon Park

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