Churchill statue 'had the look of Mussolini'

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Officials were worried that the famous statue of Sir Winston Churchill, in Parliament Square, central London, bore a resemblance to Mussolini, Fascist dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943. In April, 1972, the appeal organiser of the Churchill statue committee reported on the unfinished work.

He said the sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones had cast Sir Winston's head in plaster and his body was still in clay, but the "whole figure has been completed except for the stick which is represented by a piece of wood at present". The report added: "The head is undoubtedly like Churchill, but perhaps not quite right of him at the pinnacle of his career. The chin, mouth, and nose can hardly be improved. But the cheeks, the eyes, the forehead and the top of the head require improvement. I told Mr Roberts-Jones that above the eyes I thought I was looking at Mussolini." After this "harsh comment", the sculptor promised to "remove the dome of the head which would bring about a lowering of the forehead, which he would then line slightly".

The report continued: "The eyes remain a problem, particularly the right eye. They convey a rather glowering expression. Mr Roberts-Jones wants to portray a more resolute expression."

The Churchill committee asked the Queen to unveil the 12ft bronze statue, which was daubed with red paint by protesters three years ago during anti-capitalist riots. But the Palace said "there was some reluctance to allow the Queen to unveil a statue of a subject" and thought it more appropriate if his widow, Lady Churchill, pulled the string. A note from the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, said: "I am not sure Lady C will wish to do so as she does not like the statue."

Lady Churchill's reservations appear to have been overcome. She unveiled the statue on 1 November 1973, in the presence of the Queen.