Last time, I talked of how men who were once famous but who had evil hidden deep in their souls can live on artificially through their statues. Without that statue, such men would soon be forgotten in the dustbin of history.
I would rather emulate John Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, who, in 2014, told the descendants of those murdered by Colonel Chivington and his men at Sand Creek in 1864:
“We should not be afraid to criticize and condemn that which is inexcusable ……. We will not run from this history.”
And in 2015, construction of a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre victims began.
And I certainly feel that, if there are people who do not want to have statues of these “dubious heroes”, who do not want to be reminded of their ancestors’ suffering, then so be it. And, by this method, such men will gradually fade away rather than be kept alive artificially by a statue.
An excellent example would be Werner von Braun. Operation Paperclip made him an American citizen, along with 1600 of his fellow scientists. These were the people who helped to mastermind manned space flight and the landing on the moon. An ordinary person might want a statue.
I can think of a few Jews who wouldn’t though. And Russians, and Poles or any other East European descendants of the ones who died, as tens of thousands of slave workers perished building concrete bunkers, blast proof shelters, and rocket launching ramps all over the island of Peenemünde. If these people feel strongly enough, then no statue.
Back then, of course, von Braun was known as SS Sturmbannführer von Braun. And here is the SS Sturmbannführer with high ranking Nazis:
Here he is with the highest ranking Nazi of all. The SS Sturmbannführer is dressed as a civilian, middle of the next to back row:
This one is more difficult, but von Braun is behind Himmler, dressed up in his all black SS uniform:
We’re not in the slightest bit short of people in this category. Lord Nelson was an excellent naval commander with a 100% belief in the British Empire. But by 1801, Nelson, already married to the unfortunate Mrs Frances Nelson, was living with another woman, Emma Hamilton. She was not his wife, and he shouldn’t have been living with her. In actual fact, she was the wife of one of his closest friends, Sir William Hamilton.
There will be a lot of men nowadays who will not be too bothered about Nelson’s little foibles, but I bet there are a lot of women who would not want a statue of him staring them in the face, especially in the nation’s capital city.
I wonder who bought more of these satirical jugs? Men or women?
High on the list of people from this period who have shocking sides to their character is Lord Byron, the Romantic poet. Not that he couldn’t knock out some famous poems when he put his mind to it:
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes”
Or, perhaps more famous, “The Destruction of Sennacherib”
“The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.”
Lord Byron, though, ought to encounter a great deal of difficulty having a statue erected to him, and I don’t mean just his dress sense:
George Gordon Byron, the Sixth Baron Byron, was allegedly England’s greatest poet. Yet, it has been written that “By our own modern standards he was probably a paedophile and certainly a rapist, at least of the statutory kind.”
The evidence for these charges include the fact that Byron had an infatuation with a shapely fifteen year-old Greek boy, Lukas Chalandritsanos and spent enormous sums of money on him.
He had already had an incestuous relationship with Augusta Leigh, his own half-sister. Here she is:
Augusta gave birth to Elizabeth Medora Leigh, who was widely thought to be Byron’s child. Three days after the birth, Byron visited Augusta and the baby. He reported later to a friend, Lady Melbourne:
“It is not an Ape and if it is – that must be my fault.”
There was a widely held belief at the time that a child born of incest would be an ape.
Byron’s wife was Anne Isabella Noel Byron, 11th Baroness Wentworth and Baroness Byron, Here she is:
Evidence from a servant says that Byron raped his wife only days before she gave birth to their daughter, Ada. And then he raped her again only days after she had given birth.
In those days, of course, a husband could not be refused by his wife. What would now be considered rape was just a gentleman exercising his conjugal rights. But by today’s standards, actions like that are repulsive, especially so soon either before or after the poor woman has given birth.
Byron’s appalling arrogance was equally in evidence in his love affair with Claire Clairmont. Here she is:
Claire gave birth to a daughter, Allegra, but Byron immediately forbade her all access to her child, whom he sent away to a convent. She died there aged five.
And to think that I criticised the baddies in the TV series “Poldark” as not being true to life!
20 responses to “Why no statue ? (2)”
Byron, certainly a flawed genius.
Absolutely, 100&% on the nail. A real monster.
And some of his rhymes are a little suspect too. Did he have to invent the word “strown”? Never heard of it!
Punchily thought-provoking, John
Thank you, Derrick. That is exactly what I am trying to do. I feel we have to reconcile all of the many different groups in our society, otherwise we run the risk of turning into a country filled with hate for anybody different to ourselves. And one step along that road is trying to work out who we are going to honour with statues.
Absolutely, Lloyd. An apology of a man hiding behind the rank and privilege he was born to.
Should go down now in history with an asterisk after his title…
What a great idea! That would certainly temper the admiration felt by many people for a disgraceful human being. I definitely changed my ideas when I found out that a person I knew was a confirmed wife beater. I certainly saw him in a different light then.
We learn so much about human nature. What is important is that we must remember how some people really were in their real lives. People are a product of what society was and is…
Nous apprenons tellement de choses sur la nature humaine. Ce qui est important, c’est que nous devons nous rappeler comment certaines personnes étaient vraiment dans leur vie réelle. Les gens sont le produit de ce que la société était et est…
I like Pierre’s asterisk idea. Nowadays, sports figures “juicing” to become superstars simply get one and I can’t remember the last time I heard about incest – Yet – if you aren’t “Woke” these days, you’re the worst person imaginable!
I had to look up “woke” which doesn’t exist in England really, and , obviously, you would hope that, as a good citizen, you were “alert to injustice in society, especially racism”. Anything can be taken too far, though, and we have recently had a spate of footballers and other sports people taken to task for, mostly, anti-gay things they have written on their Facebook accounts when they were 14 or 15 years old. I certainly wouldn’t like to have to defend the things I got up to as a teenager.
I certainly wouldn’t like to have to defend the things I got up to as a teenager.
I agree John. I would add as a child also.
It all makes for difficult reading and certainly raises some hard questions. At what point do we draw the line snd can we judge past events on current standards? It’s a whole new ball game now. Very interesting as always John.
Thank you very much. Life has certainly got a lot more complicated since, for example, the cowboys fought the Indians in those old b/w films. I still remember, though, being told off by my Dad because I always sided with the people who have now become “Native Americans”.
My dad loved those old ‘cowboy’ films, he was always watching them. It’s so nice to see some still on!
It certainly is. You knew who were the good guys and the bad guys then, if only by the white hats and the black hats!
Yes, indeed, it does make one think about those whom we elevate to the status of hero. While I would not want to condone Byron’s activities, artists are by their nature transgressive, some more than others. Gauguin had a penchant for pubescent Tahitian girls but his work is still universally admired, and we have our own Eric Gill, whose behaviour would today land him in prison, though he is commemorated in his eponymous typeface. Werner von Braun was one of my heroes, but that was before I knew of his earlier life. Without him however, men would not have set foot on the Moon. It leaves me with an irresolvable moral conundrum.
I suppose we all have to make up our minds as to how we view these people. I’ve just looked up Eric Gill because I hadn’t heard of him and I could never have any positive thoughts about such a monster. Interestingly, the google page that came along for Eric Gill also said that there is a statue of George Orwell outside BBC headquarters. That is actually a perfect example of what I am talking about. Orwell got to where he got to because his family was rolling in money. That money was given to his family as compensation for the abolition of slavery. They had 218 slaves and therefore received £4,442 , which would be around £3,000,000 today. I suppose Orwell can’t really be blamed for what his ancestors got up to, but it does rather open a can of worms about the people at the BBC. Did they not know about Orwell? Or did they know and just not care?
Thank you for sharing!!… believe that more often than not, people choose what they wish to hear or see and turn a “blind eye” to the rest and politicians and leaders use that way of thinking to create an illusion and give the people what they wish to see or hear, living reality in the shadows… it were easier done in the past but with today’s technology and knowledge, it is more difficult to do…. 🙂
“It’s a saying they have, that a man has a false heart in his mouth for the world to see, another in his breast to show to his special friends and his family, and the real one, the true one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except to himself alone…” ( James Clavell, _…. 🙂
Until we meet again..
May the sun shine all day long
Everything go right, nothing go wrong
May those you love bring love back to you
And may all the wishes you wish come true
I’d never looked at it that way, but you are absolutely 100% right. It is the advance of, as you say, technology and knowledge, which is making it very difficult to find anybody worthy of a statue, or, indeed, just worthy of our respect.
The problem is that if it is taken too far, we finish up with nobody squeaky clean enough to be the prime minister or the president. On the other hand, it might be very different if our political system made an effort to be cooperative rather than confrontational. That might turn up one or two people who are quiet, kind and worthy of the job.