Cleopatra’s Needle – is the popular name for the Ancient Egyptian obelisk re-erected in London during the 42nd year of Queen Victoria’s reign. The London obelisk and the one in New York one are a pair. Although the ‘needles’ are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, they are somewhat misnamed as they have no particular connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime.
The London needle is situated on the Embankment in the City of Westminster near the Golden Jubilee Bridges, close to the Embankment underground tube station. Presented to the UK 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan; Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.
Although the British government welcomed the gesture, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London. It was eventually sent off to the UK, and almost lost for all time when the vessel it was loaded on sank in the Bay of Biscay; fortunately it was rescued and eventually arrived in London for all to see.
On erection of the obelisk in 1878 a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal, containing a set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack & some samples of the cable used in erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the strange tale of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.
Getting there: Tube Station – Embankment on Northern Line; Bakerloo Line; Circle Line; District Line. Or take a stroll along the Embankment from Big Ben with the River Thames on your right hand side and the ‘needle’ is just past Embankment Station.
Will you be spending 3 days in London? then click here to plan your journey to see this marvellous monument and so much more.