There’s money in most things, if you know how to make it. And I suppose scrap metal merchants down the ages, always have an eye for a bargain or something which might accrue in value at a later date. This latter reason was certainly understood by Mr Rivett, a scrap metal merchant in the time of Charles I and his son Charles II. And it all revolves around a statue of Charles I.
As most people know, he was the only monarch to be executed. This happened at Banqueting House in Whitehall. The building still exists as one of the few remaining parts of Whitehall Palace. But what many may not know was that the king was very short in stature. Another famous leader with the same perceived problem was Napoleon Bonaparte. That should not be a problem but if you are a king or an emperor, you want to be seen as a tall powerful leader.
The Statue Today
That’s all very fine because very few of his subjects would actually see him up close. But it did pose a problem if a statue were to be made of the king and it should be life-size. The artist given this problem managed to make the king taller without making it obvious. He placed him atop a horse. The finished piece was set up in 1633 and displayed in Covent Garden.
However, when the king became so despised and lost his head over the business, the statue was sold to Mr Rivett with the belief it would be melted down. But our Mr Rivett had other ideas. So, what if the king and royalty was no longer desired? Things often came around again and so he stored the statue awaiting the day, the monarchy might be restored.
This happened when Charles II came to the throne. Rivett knew the son of the late king would want to put his father back into the public’s mind and so, he went to the king and offered to sell him the statue back. But selling the statue back was only the final part of Rivett’s method of making money from the statue.
Whilst the statue remained hidden and undamaged, he sold small pieces of metal which he said came from the statue. And there were plenty of buyers as the king was still popular with certain members of the public. It is reported he made a small fortune from this deception. I think Steptoe & Son had a lot to learn from him.
The Statue is just South of Trafalgar Square
Today, you can still see the statue. It stands in the middle of Whitehall looking down towards Westminster. However, outside the Houses of Parliament is a statue of Oliver Cromwell who was behind the king’s execution. Let’s hope they never meet in case all that’s left is scrap metal.