Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Regency is Following Me About!

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first ever visit to the Republic of Ireland. A bit late, you may think, considering so many of my ancestors came from there.

It was intended to be purely a holiday, but it didn’t work out like that at all. Soon my camera was clicking, and I was filling my notebook.

First of all, we were doing the standard tourist thing, taking one of those open-topped double-decker buses round Dublin. We stopped off at Phoenix Park. And what did I find there?

This is the absolutely enormous obelisk to the Duke of Wellington. There’s a figure at the bottom in my picture to give you a sense of scale. The obelisk is 63 metres high. (Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square is a mere 51.659 metres.) It was begun in 1817 but apparently wasn’t finished until 1861 because Wellington fell out of favour.

At the base, it has some fine bronzes of battle scenes, as you can see, as well as a hymn of praise to Wellington himself. The inscription, in Latin and English, is:

Asia and Europe, saved by thee, proclaim invincible in war thy deathless name. Now, round thy brow the civic oak we twine, that every earthly glory may be thine.

A little over the top, possibly, to modern ears?

The obelisk wasn’t the only historical site in Dublin that reminded me of Wellington. I found this, too. It’s the plaque commemorating Wellington’s birthplace on the wall of what is now the Merrion Hotel, just a few steps away from the National Gallery.

The Merrion Hotel is reckoned to be the best hotel in Dublin. It has been created out of four Georgian terrace houses, opposite the Government Buildings. The interior is splendidly done, preserving much of the period detail. It also includes a very large collection of modern art, much of it Irish, including some striking sculptures in the courtyard garden.

The truth was that, having gone on holiday, I had temporarily shut off my historical author’s brain and completely forgotten that Wellington was born in Ireland. Dublin reminded me, with some force. However, Wellington did not consider himself an Irishman, it appears. When asked if he was, he is reported to have said, “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse”.



Jan Jones said...

My goodness, that is some obelisk!

How lovely to have your holiday turn into research.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jan. Yes, the obelisk is quite overwhelming, especially when you get up close. And the base is designed so that you can't climb up to look at the bronzes, hence my rather neck-craning pix. Sadly, on one of the bronzes, there's quite a lot of graffiti in white paint.

Yes, Wellington did rather catch me on the hop. But a very pleasant surprise, especially when I found the plaque for ths birth place. It felt like a real bonus.

Louise Allen said...

Love the column - but you can see why it would offend Nationalist sensibilites - it isn't exactly subtle
Sounds a great trip - deinitely on my list of places to go

Anonymous said...

Subtle? Er, no. Absolutely not. All things considered, it's possibly a miracle that it was ever finished!