Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published October 10th 2011
The Queen Victoria Memorial sits, appropriately, in the Queen Victoria Gardens opposite the Arts Centre and the NGV International, overlooking the Yarra River. It's made of white marble and granite, and towers over anyone standing nearby. Around it, the gardens stretch around in complex layouts, all green grass and raised flower beds, and below can be seen the entire length of the Alexandra Gardens lawn. There are five figures in total on the monument, one on each side and one on the top, each representing a different aspect of Queen Victoria's reign. If you can decipher the Latin inscriptions, you can tell which figure matches which aspect - history, progress, justice and wisdom.
Victoria was crowned Queen on the 28th of June, 1938. She was only eighteen years old, but during her reign the British Empire reached its highest point, expanding into huge overseas colonies and expanding domestic industrial projects. Her most lasting contribution was perhaps delegating the business of government to parliament, making the role of the monarch largely symbolic.
After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, she withdrew into mourning, wearing black for the remainder of her life. She was rarely seen in public, and relied heavily on John Brown, a Scottish manservant, despite gossip that the two were having an affair (she was commonly derided as 'Mrs Brown'.) On the last day of February 1872, John Brown jumped onto a potential assassin in an attempt to save the Queen's life, and her popularity was somewhat improved.
James White, born in 1862 in Edinburgh, learnt to sculpt in London. In 1884 he immigrated to Sydney and in the next few decades became Australia's leading bronze caster. Many Australian cities have one of his sculptures, and he even sculpted another Queen Victoria Memorial in Ballarat. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Australians mourned together. Melbourne especially immediately proposed a memorial - unlike other large cities in the Empire, Melbourne had no memorial to the Queen (instead it was named after her first prime minister and, of course, located in the state named after her.
The public raised over seven thousand pounds for the memorial, and James White was chosen to sculpt it. On Empire Day, 1907, the memorial was unveiled by John Madden, the lieutenant governor of Victoria.