After a comprehensive conservation project, the statue of Charles II has returned to its plinth in Parliament Square. In October last year the statue was carefully removed, and transported to the workshop of Hall Conservation in Kent for conservation. The work was part of the Twelve Monuments Restoration Project, a joint initiative of the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.
The statue has been dismantled to repair splits and cracks in the lead, and to install a new supporting framework inside. A layer of protective wax has also been applied to help protect against corrosion.
Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said, “I am delighted to see this treasure fully restored and back in its rightful place at the heart of the city. This has been a very worthwhile project and I would like to thank all the donors, whose contributions have been vital to this project. The conservators have done a marvellous job, and everyone can now appreciate this sculpture in its original condition. This statue has seen many changes in the 300 years that it has been watching over Parliament Square and I am glad that we have been able to ensure its future for many years to come.”
The total cost of the project is Â£59,255, funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage, but donations from organisations and private individuals have also been vital, raising a third of the total required. Donations were received from:
The Charitable Trust of the Society of High Constables, including generous bequest of the late James Carmichael of the Society’s Ward X1, The Scottish Court Service, The Faculty of Advocates, Veneziana Fund, Manifold Trust, Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, Old Town Association, The Sir J.D. Pollockâ€™s 1936 Trust, Miss C H Cruft, The Society of Solicitors in the Supreme Courts of Scotland, Mrs J Zeigler, Mr John Knight, The 1699 Club, Ms Elaine Morris, Ms Fiona Pearson, Ms Jessie Anderson.
16 April 1685 – erected by the Provost, Magistrates and Council in Parliament Close at a cost of Â£2,584 Scots. The statue depicts Charles II as a laurelled Roman General.
1689 – Latin inscription penned by William Clerk (advocate) who later sued for payment!
1732, 1785, 1817 – minor repairs and in 1786 â€˜three coats of strong paintâ€™ were applied, apparently white and at a cost of three guineas. The condition of the horse was not helped by the tradition of young Edinburgh lads climbing up on it to nail garlands to it annually on June 4 to mark the birthday of George III.
1835 2nd Restoration – After removal from Parliament Square in 1824 â€œin a state of decayâ€ horse and rider languished in the yard of Calton Jail for 11 years. In 1835, following repairs costing Â£30 6s 6 1/2d, Charles was placed upon a new plinth of Craigleith stone which included two inscriptions from the original pedestal.
â€œI saw today for the first time the second Restoration of Charles II â€“ I mean of his statue, which has been replaced in the Parliament Square after a sleep in the prison for eleven years. A very respectable piece of art. The horse had cracked at the fetlocks, but his legs are now mended, and his other frailties soldered, and his inside is sustained by a strong muscular system of oak. So he is expected to defy the weather and remain sound for another century. The little Parliament Close is now the most Continental looking spot in Edinburgh. Lord Cockburnâ€™s, Journal 12 May 1835
1843 – Magistrates had the statue painted white.
1922 – Some repairs undertaken with the statue suspended from a scaffold.
1952 3rd Restoration – Following removal from Parliament Square in 1949, storage at Russell Road yard for two years, and repairs at a Lambeth foundry in 1951, Charles was yet again restored to Parliament Square in February 1952.