Patrick Buchanan: Nelson Mandela Doesn't Belong in Trafalgar Square

Roundup: Talking About History

“Partial firing continued until 4:30, when a victory having been reported to the Right Hon. Lord Viscount Nelson, KB and commander in chief, he then died of his wound.”

So reads the simple entry in the log of HMS Victory for Oct. 21, 1805, the day of Trafalgar, one of the greatest sea battles of history, in which Admiral Horatio Nelson, architect of the Royal Navy victory over the French and Spanish fleets, lost his life.

On this month’s 200th anniversary of that battle that ended Napoleon’s threat of invasion, a battle is being fought over London’s Trafalgar Square, where a 185-foot victory column stands, atop which is a statue of the great Sea Lord who had led British fleets to triumph at Copenhagen and the Battle of the Nile.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, dubbed “Red Ken” by the press for his hard-left views, wants to plant, in the heart of Trafalgar Square, a 9-foot statue of another Nelson—Nelson Mandela.

The Westminster Council vehemently objects. They say the Mandela statue, which shows him in a loose-fitting shirt, hands uplifted as though in animated conversation, should be placed in front of the South African embassy.

Paul Drury, a consultant for the conservation group English Heritage, argues that putting an “informal, small-scale statue” of Mandela alongside the warrior heroes whose statues now stand there “would be a major and awkward change in the narrative of the square.”

To which Livingstone snaps, “I have not a clue who two of the generals there are or what they did.”

Those two generals are Sir Charles James Napier and Sir Henry Havelock. Napier besieged and captured Sindh, sending back the famous one-word Latin message: Peccavi. “I have sinned.” Havelock led the suppression of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Both military heroes helped secure the crown jewel of the British Empire for the future empress of India, Victoria.

One imagines Red Ken knows exactly who they are and what they did, and this is why he wants them out of Trafalgar Square—and his hero Mandela, the former ANC train-bomber who spent 27 years in prison and emerged to become president of South Africa, in.

Red Ken is not an empire man. But Trafalgar Square is the grand plaza that honors British military heroes. And as Mandela is neither British nor a military hero, what would he be doing in Trafalgar Square? His statue no more belongs there than on the Washington Mall. ...

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Todd Alan Kreamer - 11/2/2005

I whole-heartedly agree with with Mr. Buchanan's views on placing a statue of Nelson Mandela in Trafalgar Squeare in London. This is a park honored for England's military heroes and Mandela is a South African. Honor Mandelas work by placing his statue in front of the South African Embassy where it would make sense and be seen in the correct context. The Mayor of London needs a reality check and should see his country's history within context of its historic parks.

Steven R Alvarado - 11/1/2005

I wonder, fifty years from now, when London is a Muslim city which statue will they tear down first? Mandela or Nelson.