Apr 112014


aka James II

Trafalgar Square

Don’t be fooled by the Roman garb. This effete nob with his toga tossed casually over his shoulder – part Brideshead, part Duran Duran circa Planet Earth – and his tunic hoicked over his knee like a Year 11 schoolgirl at a bus stop in Watford is, in fact, King James II, his body languidly bowed like a small fey banana and his upper limbs polygonically disposed as if to remind us that, truly, this was the noblest teapot of them all. But a teapot with a distinctly droopy spout – what are we to make of that? Could it, perhaps, be allegorical, a rocky mockery of the fact that, when his brother was alive, and James was still merely Duke of York, many scurrilous rumours circulated that, having had 10,000 men, he was nowadays mostly only halfway up, or – to put it another way (which was something else he tried) – neither up nor down?

Unfortunately, that was a different Duke of York. And, by all accounts, a limp spout was rarely a problem for Jimmy Two. Samuel Pepys, no less, complained – or possibly boasted – that James “did eye my wife mightily”, and Arabella Churchill, who mothered four children by him, rarely had recourse to a tea bag in a mug, if you take my meaning. No, the truth behind this odd posture is altogether stranger. It seems that a passing Italian floosie named Mary was delivering a pizza to the studio where James was posing – for the sculpture, not just generally – and, at the very moment the artist raised his chisel to make the first blow, was on the receiving end of an unexpected two-pronged royal goosing which, in accordance with the protocols of the time, led to marriage, the Glorious Revolution, and the War of the Spanish Succession. The statue’s companion piece – a representation of Mary looking thrilled, surprised and touched (though obviously not in that order) – still occupies a prime spot in her hometown of Modena, just outside the station. The pizza, sadly, was broken off by vandals during the 1980 European Championship to use as a frisbee, following Italy’s penalty shootout defeat to Czechoslovakia.

Matt Haynes

If you’re interested in people dressed as Romans, by the way, then you might like to look at
Camp Statue 9B (William Huskisson MP), or visit Rome.

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