St Paul’s Cathedral monument to Waterloo hero known as the ‘Tyrant of Trinidad’ may be axed


A monument at St Paul’s Cathedral depicting a hero of the Battle of Waterloo also known as the ‘Tyrant of Trinidad’ could be removed as part of a probe into offensive statues.

The memorial to Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, which is surrounded by angels and a lion, is one of several being reviewed as part of the £800,000 probe. 

Picton, the only Welshman buried in the London cathedral, was the most senior British officer to die at Waterloo in 1815. 

His potential removal comes after a statue of him at Cardiff City Hall was removed. 

But, despite his sacrifice against Napoleon;s troops, his reputation has been overshadowed by his ‘brutal’ rule in Trinidad. 

He was also known to have used the slave trade to build up his considerable fortune and in 1806 was also found guilty of ordering the torture of Luisa Calderon, a 14-year-old mixed-race girl, during his rule of the Caribbean island. 

This memorial to Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, which is surrounded by angels and a lion, is one of several being reviewed as part of the £800,000 probe

Picton, the only Welshman buried in the London cathedral, was the most senior British officer to die at Waterloo in 1815

Picton, the only Welshman buried in the London cathedral, was the most senior British officer to die at Waterloo in 1815

He was never sentenced, and two years later the verdict was reversed at a retrial. 

Now, his monument at St Paul’s is under threat as part of a three-year review which has received public money from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

However, the dean of the church previously suggested that the removal of statues from St Paul’s was unlikely.    

The project, entitled Pantheons: Sculpture at St Paul’s Cathedral, states that it is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

It compares St Paul’s monuments to statues of Confederate generals in the United States. 

Professor James Stevens Curl, author of the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture, said he was concerned that the investigation would lead to ‘widespread destruction’ and that it was wrong to judge 19th-century figures by 21st-century standards. 

St Paul’s said: ‘The Pantheons Project is a three-year research project which should help visitors and the cathedral understand and interpret the memorials for the 21st century.’

His monument at St Paul's is under threat as part of a three-year review which has received public money from the Arts and Humanities Research Council

His monument at St Paul’s is under threat as part of a three-year review which has received public money from the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Workers removed the statue of slave trader Sir Thomas Picton back in July after councillors voted to have it removed from Cardiff's City Hall

Workers removed the statue of slave trader Sir Thomas Picton back in July after councillors voted to have it removed from Cardiff’s City Hall

The monument at St Paul’s is not the first dedicated to Picton hit by the wrath of campaigners. 

Sir Thomas Picton: ‘Tyrant of Trinidad’ whose last words were ‘Charge!’ 

Thomas Picton was born on August 24, 1758, in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

He became the highest-ranking British Army officer killed at the Battle of Waterloo, shot through the temple while leading a bayonet charge against the enemy. 

His last words were reported to be ‘Charge! Charge! Hurrah! Hurrah!’.    

The Duke of Wellington called him ‘a rough foul-mouthed devil as ever lived’, but described him as capable.

A memorial to him was erected at St Paul’s Cathedral while former prime minister David Lloyd George described him as one of the ‘Heroes of Wales’ in 1916. 

But he first came to the attention of the British public for his alleged cruelty during his governorship of Trinidad, where his motto was ‘let them hate so long as they fear’ 

Picton was accused of the execution of a dozen slaves while historians claimed others were tortured and mutilated under his watch.

He was known to have used the slave trade to build up his considerable fortune and in 1806 was also found guilty of torturing Luisa Calderon, a 14-year-old mixed-race girl, during his rule of the Caribbean island. 

He tendered his resignation after an investigation reported some of the cruelty allegations against him.  

The Privy Council later tried him on the allegations of cruelty. 

He was at first found guilty of unlawful torture to extract a confession of Luisa Calderon, but was later cleared at a retrial. Picton successfully argued that arguing that Trinidad was subject to Spanish law, which permitted the use of torture.  

His statue was taken down in Cardiff after councillors agreed it should be removed at a Cardiff Council vote in July. 

During the meeting, councillors said Picton’s ‘abhorrent’ behaviour as Governor of Trinidad meant he was ‘not deserving of a place in the Heroes of Wales collection’, with 57 ruling in favour of the statue’s removal, five voting against the move and nine abstaining. 

Cardiff’s first black mayor Dan De’Ath called for the statue of the ‘sadistic 19th Century slave-owner’ to be removed in the aftermath of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston being toppled in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter march in June.

Mr De’Ath said: ‘I’m delighted. I think the way Cardiff has gone about the whole thing has been the right way. We’ve used democratic means to take it down.

‘Most people were incredibly supportive. They recognise the significance of the statue and what an affront it is to black people. Black lives do matter.

‘It’s therefore not appropriate to have such a person as Picton, who caused so much suffering and death and misery during his time as governor of Trinidad, commemorated and celebrated.

‘Statues are not just about history. They are about celebrating the lives of the people they depict, and representing a certain set of values. These aren’t the values, he’s not the person, and these aren’t the deeds we want to celebrate and recognise in Cardiff today.’

Mr De’Ath said the decision to remove the statue had ‘special significance’ for him due to his own family history.

‘I’m not only black, but my father came from Antigua, an island in the Caribbean. He was almost certainly a descendent of slaves himself,’ he said.

‘It means a lot. A huge amount to me and other black people out there in the community.’

A portrait of Picton that the Queen has hanging in Windsor Castle also had its accompanying gallery and online description changed to include his links to slavery in July.

Historical details of the painting of Picton were altered to include a reference to torturing a slave girl when he was the ‘Tyrant of Trinidad’.

Now the Royal Collection Trust’s physical register at the gallery as well as the website detail the story of his cruelty as governor of the island.

Previously it had featured no mention of this grim part of the British Army officer’s history.

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