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The Queen's Beasts

The Queen's Beasts in Kew Gardens, London
The original Queen's Beasts in the Canadian Museum of History

The Queen's Beasts are ten heraldic statues depicting the genealogy of Queen Elizabeth II. They were commissioned by the British Ministry of Works from sculptor James Woodford (who was paid the sum of £2,750 for the work) to stand in front of the temporary western annexe to Westminster Abbey for the Queen's coronation in 1953. The beasts are some six-foot (1.83 m) high, cast in plaster, and could not therefore be left in the open air. The beasts are: the lion of England, the griffin of Edward III, the falcon of the Plantagenets, the black bull of Clarence, the yale of Beaufort, the white lion of Mortimer, the White Greyhound of Richmond, the red dragon of Wales, the unicorn of Scotland, and the white horse of Hanover.

After the coronation, they were removed to the Great Hall in Windsor Castle. The beasts were taken into storage in April 1958 whilst their future was considered. It was eventually decided to offer them to the Commonwealth governments and Canada, being the senior nation, was offered them first. In June 1959, the Canadian government accepted the beasts and they were shipped there in July. Originally, the only part of the statues to be coloured was their heraldic shields; but, for the celebrations of the Canadian federation in 1967, the statues were painted in their full heraldic colours. They are now in the care of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau.

In 1958, Sir Henry Ross, Chairman of the Distillers Company in Edinburgh, paid for Portland stone replicas of these statues, which are on display outside the Palm House at Kew Gardens. The beasts also served as models for topiary at Hall Place, Bexley. The original sculptures have been commemorated in the following forms: bone china figurines, cups and saucers, glass tray sets, plaster models, reclaimed material reproductions,[1] porcelain candlesticks, British postage stamps issued in 1998, silver tea spoons, and tea towels.

See also

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