Pardons for All

It is nice to know that Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that has in its care such bastions of national heritage as the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, is -for once - ahead of the popular curve. HRP seems to have already pardoned the traitors, Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Katherine Howard, Jayne Boleyn, and Robert Devereux. In addition it would appear to have pardoned Lady Jane Grey for usurping the Crown and also pardoned three Black Watch soldiers for mutiny.

At a cost of around £50,000 the charity has funded an artwork as a memorial to these criminals, on the site where the executions are believed to have taken place. (It also commemorates Margaret Poll and Lord Hastings who were also killed on or near the site.) No government approval was needed, no permission was sought from the Church to turn over the consecrated ground of the site and the protests of the Regimental Association of the Black Watch were ignored.

The artwork was democratically selected from models put forward by selected artists and visitors to the tower were invited to choose which they preferred. Many - if not most - noted that they preferred the existing presentation of the site but that was not given as an option. The Scaffold Site has been a building site since May, much to the disappointment of many visitors who come to stand on the spot. They will not be able to do that again.

All art, expresses a comment, the judgement and sentiment of the artist on the subject it addresses, it cannot be impartial. Though it may seem barbaric to us in the 21st Century, the executions at the site were deemed to be in the best interests of the State. Any artwork by way of memorial is - in effect - a judgement on the State at that time. It seems inappropriate that HRP – a charity supported wholly by voluntary subscriptions and admission fees - should cast judgement on the History it is supposed to present in an informative, accessible and unbiased way. There is no visitor expectation or desire for such a memorial at the Tower; it seems a waste of the money given to preserve our heritage.

The artwork will be unveiled in a small ceremony at 6pm (after the public have left) on Friday 1st September. I understand that The Tower will be lit - blood red - for a few weeks after the event. As a Yeoman Warder (a.k.a. Beefeater) I feel I must distance myself (and I know I speak for others) from the project and as an historian I can only deplore it. :(
Unfortunately typical of the revisionist tendencies prevalent in today's chattering classes, many of whom I understand now "earn" a living in HRP. My condolences, BarnacleBill, but I'm sure you will be able to include some of your own opinions into your tour to correctly educate future visitors on this matter!

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