This is the only piece of statutory in Canberra which falls into the category of bold, imposing and larger than life pieces, befitting of Empire.
King George V was King when Old Parliament House (across the road) was opened in 1927. As Duke of York, he represented his father, King Edward VII, at the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament on 9 May 1901 in Melbourne.
The memorial was sculptured by Rayner Hoff and unveiled in 1953 by Governor-General, Sir William McKell. It was originally located on the lawn in front of Old Parliament house on the axis between Parliament and the Australian War Memorial.
The base of the memorial and remaining components including the stone figure of Saint George, which faced towards the War Memorial, were actually completed in 1941 when the onset of WWII delayed the casting of the bronze plaques and the bronze figure of King George. King George “arrived” in 1953 and the memorial was completed.
The King George V memorial, in addition to being a memorial to the King, doubles as a war memorial, commissioned before the Australian War Memorial was completed. As such, the monument has two distinct sides – the King George side, which honours both the reign of the monarch and Australian federation, and the Saint George side, honouring Australia’s contribution to the First World War.
In 1968 the memorial was moved a hundred metres to its current location, supposedly the one preferred by its creators, on the basis that it disturbed the clear line of view along the Burley Griffin axis joining the War Memorial and (Old) Parliament House. It is interesting to note that King George V has since been replaced by the ramshackle elements of the Aboriginal “Tent Embassy” on the very same axis. These presumably are deemed not to disturb the clear line of view envisaged by Burley Griffin. I will leave it for my reader to decide for him or herself.
The black and white photo attached is an old Department of Defence picture showing the memorial in its original location. Note also in this picture the then recently constructed Australian – American Memorial (separate review) at Russell – towards the back. The is a great photo also in that it shows how much Canberra has changed in 50 years – the most obvious being the addition of Lake Burley Griffin since the photo was taken.
Another life-size bronze statue of George V by sculptor Bertram Mackennal can be seen in Kings Hall across the road in Old Parliament House. George V was represented at the opening of Old Parliament House by the then Duke of York and later George VI.
Address: King George Terrace, Parkes
Directions: Across the road from Old Parliament House (Museum of Australian Democracy)