War of words erupts after King Charles’ official sculptor wins Elsie Inglis commission for Royal Mile

A bitter war of words has broken out after an official sculptor for King Charles won a commision to create a new memorial honouring the Scottish medical pioneer Elsie Inglis.

Dr Elsie Inglis will be the first woman honoured with a statue on the Royal Mile if the proposed statue goes ahead.
Dr Elsie Inglis will be the first woman honoured with a statue on the Royal Mile if the proposed statue goes ahead.

Supporters of a campaign to build a statue on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile have published an open letter condemning the hiring of Alexander Stoddart, the King's "Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland."

They are furious that the campaign trustees suspended an official competition weeks before announcing that Stoddart had "accepted the commission."

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They have accused Stoddart of downplaying the significance of Inglis becoming the first woman to be commemorated on the Royal Mile.

Medical pioneer Elsie Inglis is due to become the first woman to be honoured with a statue on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
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However the campaign trustees have suggested that critics of the appointment seem more interested in promoting women’s rights rather than honouring Elsie Inglis.

Stoddart previously designed the statues of Adam Smith and David Hume on the Royal Mile, as well as those honouring James Clerk Maxwell on George Street and William Henry Playfair on Chambers Street.

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The open letter states: "He (Stoddart) has no clear links with Elsie Inglis or feminism and is very much not in the spirit of the original brief.

"We have no confidence in the trustees' ability to manage funds raised or their ability to further manage this project.

“No explanations or apologies have been offered. The decisions made have been behind closed doors and without public consultation or scrutiny."

A campaign to honour Inglis with a permanent memorial was launched five years ago, spearheaded by then Lord Provost Frank Ross. Supporters have since raised more than £50,000 to pay for the statue.

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A search for an artist to design the statue was launched in August, when the trustees said they planned to announce a winning design in April.

The trustees announced last month that the competition had been “suspended indefinitely” and that “considerations” brought to the attention of the trustees had rendered the project brief “sub optimal.”

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However, the trustees announced on Monday that Stoddart had secured the commission, with Mr Ross declaring that his statues “encompass a classical timelessness and enduring grace.”

The news sparked a furious response from artists who had worked on designs for the statue.

Natasha Ingram-Phoenix said: “Not only does the hiring of the royal sculptor not fit the brief that they put out, it also goes against the entire ethos of the campaign and the cause for which people were actually donating.

"Myself and the public were led to believe that this was an opportunity for a work worthy of Elsie Inglis, a feminist work, representing all she stood for and her amazing legacy, not a third statue for an elderly white man on the Royal Mile. It's a devastating blow for myself and all of the other artists.”

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Responding to the open letter, trustee Thea Laurie said: “We are considering the position and will respond fully once we have done so.

“As trustees for a charity, we are entitled to take all steps we consider necessary within the constants of our powers to pursue the purpose of the charity.

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“The purpose of this charity is to erect a statue in tribute to Elsie Inglis – no more, no less.

“At the moment, the action of certain parties seems to be to promote women’s rights rather than honour the work of Elsie Inglis.”

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