Albert Park Queen Victoria Statue

Albert Park Queen Victoria Statue

Queen Victoria Statue Queen Victoria Statue Queen Victoria Statue Queen Victoria Statue

Albert Park Queen Victoria Statue (1897)

Auckland’s shrine to Britannic identity

Historian James Belich calls 1880-1960 the era of ‘recolonisation’, a time when ‘the favourite child traded prolonged adolescence for special access to Mother’s ear, purse, and markets, and for higher living standards’, John Darwin’s less confusing phrase, ‘strengthening Britannic identity’, better captures what was a self-generated process, a time when dominions such as New Zealand strengthened their contacts with British culture, keen to ride along on the coat-tails of the world’s only superpower. Premier ‘King Dick’ Seddon cut a dash at Victoria’s ornate Jubilee celebrations in London in 1897, and we sent troops to fight in South Africa, subsidised the Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron and welcomed British aristocrats as governors.

A century after the matronly monarch’s death, bronze Victorias stare down from their plinths on Cambridge Terrace (Wellington) and in Victoria Square (Christchurch), and a marble one lurks in Queen’s Gardens (Dunedin). Albert Park’s old queen, sculpted by F.J. Williamson, was our first Victoria. For decades it provided a focal point for a now forgotten ritual, Empire Day, which had its roots in Canada. From 1903, 24 May, Victoria’s birthday, was celebrated across the Empire as Empire Day, with events organised here for more than 50 years by the Royal Empire Society, the Victoria League and the Committee of the Patriotic Societies of Auckland. If His Excellency was in residence, he would preside over a morning ceremony in front of this statue. Later he would make a major speech and attend an Empire Day Ball, held for many years at the Hotel Cargen. Decked out in 18th-century costumes, dancers practised the minuet, popularised by Lady Alice Fergusson in the 1920s. Empire Day became Commonwealth Day in 1958 and has almost disappeared from memory, not even celebrated by the pith-helmeted, penny farthing-pedalling ‘living Victorian’ brigade in Ōamaru.

Related places

Albert Park has many historic objects: the band rotunda and the Reed Memorial statue, the statue to Helen Boyd, the South African War Memorial, the oaks planted by officers from the American ‘Great White Fleet’ in 1908, and Sir George Grey’s statue, relocated here in 1922. The cannons date from 1879. Although useless by 1941, they were buried for fear they might attract air attacks. They were disinterred in 1977.

Further information

This site is item number 71 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



  • David Cannadine, Ornamentalism, Allen Lane, London, 2001

Community contributions

1 comment has been posted about Albert Park Queen Victoria Statue

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John Cox

Posted: 08 Oct 2014

The Monarchist League organised a celebration at the statue in 2001, to mark the centenary of Queen Victoria's death. Many hundreds of people attended.