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CHARING CROSS—LONDON’S CENTREPIECE   PART 2

YESTERDAY, WE FOUND London’s Charing Cross named for a bend in the River Thames and a cross honoring Eleanor, wife of England’s Edward I. We’d like to believe she’d rest in peace there as a centrepiece to a great city. But history suggests otherwise.

JCCJ and the Roundheads. Stuart kings, James VI/I, Charles I, Charles II, and James II/VII, reigned in 17th-century England, but not without a Roundhead interruption. The dual numbering accounts for their Scottish and English reigns. Since we’re discussing England here, let’s agree to call the JCCJ Js simply James I and II.

According to Wikipedia, James I “was strongly committed to a peace policy, and tried to avoid involvement in religious wars…. He was succeeded by his second son, Charles.”

Son Charles wasn’t so lucky

Charles I, 1600–1649, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1625 until his execution in 1649. Portrait from the studio of Anthony van Dyck.

Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads took over and had Charles I beheaded in 1649. While they were at it, they abolished the monarchy and had Charing Cross’s monument pulled down in 1643 and demolished in 1647.

Oliver Cromwell, 1599–1658, English politician; some say regicidal dictator, others say military dictator, others say a hero of liberty. Portrait by Samuel Cooper, 1656.

As I noted in “Oliver Cromwell—Puritan, Lord Protector, and a Real Piece of Work,” three years after Cromwell’s death in 1658, he was exhumed, chained, and beheaded by his ex-Protectees. 

And we think our politics can be embarrassing.

The Stuart Restoration, 1660. As part of the Stuart Restoration, Charles II had eight of his father’s regicides executed at Charing Cross. And to emphasize matters, he had an equestrian statue of his father erected at the site as well. 

A good story concerning the Charles I statue: It had been planned in 1633 (pre-Cromwell Protectorate), but Parliament ordered it destroyed in 1649. Instead, the guy charged with this task hid the statue, it resurfaced during the Restoration, and was erected at Charing Cross in 1675.

The Pillory at Charing Cross, 1809. (Apparently a good time was had by all—with two exceptions.) Charles I and his horse look on from the right.

A New Cross. A “modern” cross, in ornate Victorian Gothic design, was erected at Charing Cross in 1865. 

The Victorian Charing Cross, London. Image by Bernard Gagnon from Wikipedia.

The Centre of London Displaced by 200 Yards? Today’s Charing Cross is some 200 yards to the east of the medieval site. Given that road distances from London continue to be measured from Charing Cross, all should be taken with a 200-yard grain of history. And this brings us more or less to where we began, with Charing Cross at the “centre” of a great city. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

2 comments on “CHARING CROSS—LONDON’S CENTREPIECE   PART 2

  1. Matthias
    April 5, 2021

    thanks Dennis!

  2. simanaitissays
    April 5, 2021

    Thank you, Matthias. I had some Charing Cross stuff since the item on Cecil Court bookstores. The more I researched, the more tidbits emerged.

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