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Set in Stone: Victoria's Monuments in India

Mary Ann Steggles recalls the circumstances of the many monuments to Queen Victoria that were erected in India, and traces their fate.

The nineteenth century was an era of ‘statumania’, and sculpture stands as the supreme imperial art form. Throughout the duration of the Raj, the British residents of India and their loyal supporters erected portrait statues in marble and bronze as symbols of a national and civic pride and evincing the moral virtue required for the expansion and security of the Empire. Whether erected by public subscription or funded through private benefaction, these symbols of allegiant nationalism were intended to inspire a sense of patriotic fervour in the native population, a function frequently emphasised by elaborate and grandiose unveiling ceremonies.

Sometimes it appeared as if no sooner had a subject laid down his life for ‘God, Queen, and Country’ than a subscription committee was raised in order to immortalise the deed. The choice of the individual commemorated, the scale, the form of the statue, and its site depended on the subject’s position in the social scale, as laid down in the 1841 rules of Precedence in the East Indies. The governor-general ranked first, followed by the governors of Bengal, Madras, Bombay, and Agra. The chief justice of Bengal and the bishop of Calcutta followed and so forth down to civilians, divided into six classes according to their length of service. Women were assigned the position of their husbands. After 1858, the monarch was followed by the viceroy. 

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