Minor British Institutions: The fourth plinth

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The Independent Online

Thanks to the ubiquitous Antony Gormley, for a few weeks anyone, in principle, can join Admiral Lord Nelson, George IV, Henry Havelock and Sir Charles James Napier in Trafalgar Square by squatting on the famous fourth plinth for an hour or so.

The empty plinth was originally intended for another 19th-century celeb, William IV, known then as the "sailor king", and now usually remembered as the bloke who came before Queen Victoria.

The most striking statue to grace the fourth plinth during the periodic artistic experiments that have taken place since 1999 is that of Alison Lapper, herself an artist, by Marc Quinn.

"Pregnant Alison Lapper" was seen during 2005 and remains the best recalled among the general public, if only because she was born with no arms and shortened legs and seen nude, shocking some.

RAF heroes, the Queen Mother, the Queen, Nelson Mandela (who wound up in Parliament Square) and many others have been suggested as permanent fixtures on the fourth plinth. However we seem to be enjoying playing with the plinth: maybe someone will put an equestrian William IV up there for a week or two, just to see what a trad statue might look like.

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