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
Surrounded by palm trees and overlooking a clock made of flowers, the bronze statue of King Edward VII on horseback sits in the Queen Victoria Gardens on a granite and basalt pedestal.
He sits with a straight back, in military uniform and sporting an impressive moustache, and his horse appears to be trotting forwards. The bronze statue is elevated several metres off the ground and is clearly visible above the Melbourne Floral Clock.
Throughout his marriage, Edward had about fifty-five illicit relationships with other women - most notably actresses Lillie Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt, and Lady Randoph Churchill, the mother of Winston Churchill. His wife, Alexandra, knew about many of these affairs and reconciled herself to them - going so far as to invite one of his mistresses, Alice Keppel, to Edward's death-bed.
The floral clock, with the memorial in the background.
The sculptor, Edgar Bertram Mackennal, was one of the most popular sculptors of the late 1890s and early 1900s. He received a knighthood in 1921 and the following year saw his election to the Royal Academy. Other works by him include the Melbourne statue of Sir William Clarke and the London Olympics medal.
Mackennal's choice to depict Edward VII as a military hero – in the statue, he wears the full dress uniform of a British field marshal – is complicated. As a youth and early adult, Edward was known for being rebellious and unruly. Despite being the eldest son of Queen Victoria, she pointedly did not appoint him to any position of government, perhaps worried that he would approach politics with the same penchant for stubbornness.
However, once he eventually came to power, Edward successfully reconciled England and France through shrewd negotiation, despite his lack of governmental experience. He earned the nickname of 'peacemaker', and introduced social reforms that proved popular until his death in 1910.
The statue's production and unveiling was temporarily derailed by World War One, which helped spin the original tender for the commission – one thousand, eight hundred pounds – to over four thousand pounds. Regardless, it was cast as soon as the war ended and unveiled in 1920, ten years after Edward VII's death.