My kingdom for a horse

I love equestrian statues. There, the secret’s out. Just about any equestrian statue will do, but I have a few favourites. In New York’s Grand Army Plaza, there’s the gilded bronze of William Tecumseh Sherman. Another gilded bronze is Joan of Arc in New Orleans and the Place des Pyramides in Paris. In fact, it you visit the cities and towns of France it’s amazing how many of them have a copy. Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a united Italy, is on a horse in the centre of Ancient Rome. I don’t know if it’s the tallest equestrian statue in the world, but at 40 feet high plus pedestal, it must rank right up there.

In London, I admire the Duke of Wellington, on the north side of Hyde Park Corner. In Washington, D.C., Andrew Jackson rides a rearing horse in Lafayette Square. In 2015, when we were conducting research, we lived nearby. Most days, I’d spend a few minutes on a bench and pay my regards to Jackson, just a few feet away, with the Obama White House rising resolute beyond. When I go for walks in downtown Toronto, I often circle Edward VII in the middle of Queen’s Park, resplendent on horseback in an area that has just been refurbished with new paving stones.

These days, many such monuments are fending off or falling to protesters. Andrew Jackson is a particular target because he forced the relocation of 60,000 Indigenous people in what came to be called The Trail of Tears. Jackson has been roped by those who would pull him down, but I saw on the news two nights ago, that he still stands. While much of the ire is focused on Confederate icons, how long will it take for someone to target Sherman, the Union general who burned Atlanta and devastated a swath of Georgia?

A version in Mumbai of Toronto’s Edward VII was recently moved to the local zoo. Will my pal get shunted to Canada’s Wonderland on the grounds of colonialism? We need a national strategy to handle the newly viewed past. In Budapest, statues and plaques from the Communist era have been assembled in Memento Park, an open-air museum where you can go see Marx, Engels, Lenin and various Hungarian Communist leaders. We need something similar rather than one-off solutions from various citizens with grudges no matter how pertinent.


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