London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejects calls for Queen Elizabeth II statue in Trafalgar Square

Mayor's office said there will be no monument honouring the late monarch 'for the foreseeable future'

'Antelope' by Samson Kambalu is unveiled as the latest sculpture on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in London. EPA
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Britons and foreign tourists flocking to London to remember Queen Elizabeth II should not expect her memory to be honoured in Trafalgar Square as Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor, has ruled out erecting a statue of the late sovereign.

After her death, admirers of the UK’s longest-reigning monarch had called for her legacy to be remembered in the form of a statue in the capital’s iconic plaza.

But Mr Khan has ruled out such a monument on the square’s Fourth Plinth in the foreseeable future, his office said.

The empty platform in the square located near Buckingham Palace has been used to showcase contemporary artwork since 1999. Having initially been earmarked for a statue of William IV, it has been empty since the mid-19th century.

“The Fourth Plinth will continue to showcase new works by world-class artists for the foreseeable future,” a spokesman for Mr Khan said.

“There are planned Fourth Plinth exhibits for the next four years. Samson Kambalu’s new commission, Antelope, will be in situ until September 2024.”

Mr Kambalu, a Malawi-born artist, said his new sculpture represents “standing up for justice and equality”.

Fans of the late Queen Elizabeth II have called for a statue to be erected in her memory. AFP

Antelope depicts a 1914 photograph of European missionary John Chorley and Malawian Baptist preacher John Chilembwe, who fought against British colonial rule.

Speaking at the unveiling of the sculpture in central London on Wednesday, Mr Kambalu said he was “glad” he could carry forth Mr Chilembwe’s message of fighting for a better world.

The preacher died in 1915 in an uprising while fighting colonial injustices, one of which was the rule that forbade Africans from wearing hats in front of white people. The commission of the work led to criticism by some because the revolt led to a British settler being decapitated.

The artist said that the title of Antelope alludes to the mask culture of the Chewa people, who reside in Malawi, and is a symbol of generosity.

“So he’s not only proposing equality and injustice, but he’s also proposing actually a radical economy right in the middle of the [British] Empire,” he said.

Mr Khan welcomed the unveiling of the “inspiring sculpture” in a tweet. “I’m sure it will encourage discussion about the fight for freedom and equality that remains just as important today,” he said.

Next on the list to be given a place on the Fourth Plinth is a commission by artist Teresa Margolles that depicts the faces of 850 transgender people.

Mr Khan was torn apart by critics for his decision to rule out any immediate space for a statue of the late queen.

Casa Arjay tweeted that it was “disgraceful that Khan is allowed to make the decision” while Paul Mullins said the mayor “should easily be overridden” on the stance.

Another critic, Maria H-G, demanded in a tweet that Mr Khan “has to go”. “I'm beginning to think he's reserving that plinth for himself,” she said.

Another Twitter user said the mayor was acting “way above his station” and accused him of making a decision that impacted those beyond London. “Now he is telling the whole country what they can and cannot have,” said the tweet.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 7:53 AM
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