FOR THE last thousand years, our nation’s monarchs have had reason to visit or spend time in Southampton. One of the earliest was Cnut who was declared King in 1016 on Southampton Common by the Witan, the advisers to the Anglo Saxon Kings.

While in Southampton Cnut is reputed to have sat in his chair on the sea-shore and said to the rising tide, “I command you not to rise on to my land, nor to presume to wet my clothing or limbs.”

The sea came up as usual, and soaked the king who declared his power worthless and that there is no king worthy of the name save God.

Henry II and his successors including King John created the historical walls enclosing the old town, it’s reputed that Richard the Lionheart spent time in Southampton Castle and we know that Henry V visited the town when preparing for the Battle of Agincourt.

Henry VIII spent time in Southampton and presented the town with a magnificent cannon, Philip of Spain arrived in Southampton on his way to Winchester to wed Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I was outraged at having to stay in Southampton Castle which was virtually a ruin.

George III visited Southampton when it was a spa town and Victoria was a regular visitor on route to Osborne House. As a Princess she opened the newly constructed Royal Pier.

King George VI at Southampton Civic Centre in December 1940..

King George VI at Southampton Civic Centre in December 1940.

George V and his sons were regular visitors and our present Queen has visited the town on many occasions.

With such royal connections and many more it is surprising there is not an abundance of royal statues in Southampton compared with other places. A statue of George III sits proudly on Weymouth seafront while Alfred can be seen in Winchester holding his sword aloft in the Christian symbol.

What will surprise many people is that there is a very prominent statue of George III in Southampton but he is in disguise.

On the south side of the Bargate in the niche above the archway is a cast statue of the body of the Roman Emperor Hadrian copied from a statue in the British Museum by Eleanor Coade who was famous for manufacturing neoclassical figures in Lithodipyra or Coade stone. The head of this statue is in fact that of George III and the shield behind him is adorned with his coat of arms.

King Canute.

King Canute attempting to stop the tide.

The statue was placed there in 1809 by the Third Marquess of Landsdowne who admired the King and wished to flatter him by likening him to a Roman Emperor. It replaced a wooden statue of Queen Anne which was removed and placed inside the Bargate where it remains to this day sadly minus an arm which was damaged during VE Day celebrations in 1945.

In 1869, Mark Henry Blanchard was commissioned by Southampton’s Mayor Sir Frederick Perkins to produce a terracotta statue of Prince Albert, the Prince Regent, to be installed in the Albert Infirmary at Bishops Waltham which was then under construction.

Blanchard’s business was located on the site of Eleanor Coade’s terracotta works at Lambeth.

For a variety of reasons the infirmary was not completed and, as five times Mayor and the MP for Southampton, Perkins offered the statue to his home town.

Southampton Castle

Old drawing of Southampton Castle.

After much debate and discussion over a suitable site the borough surveyor James Lemon was instructed in 1877 to place the statue at the east end of God’s House Tower, the ground floor of which at that time was the town mortuary.

The statue remained on the Platform for about thirty years slowly deteriorating, often painted rather than cleaned and was eventually moved without explanation and put into store.

In 1912 the council received a request from the rate payers for the statue to be restored but no action was taken instead it ended up at Chapel Wharf.

It is said that some Royal Engineers came across it during the Great War and on being informed it was the grandfather of the hated Kaiser they destroyed it.

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Godfrey Collyer is a tour guide with .