The National Monument, a commanding neoclassical structure on Calton Hill, stands as a tribute to the fallen Scottish soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. The plan was to make a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, with each stone being exactly the same size as the originals in Greece. Unfortunately less than half of the £42,000 required was raised in a public appeal, and only 12 columns were finished, leading to the monument’s nickname a ‘National Disgrace’.
The idea of a Scottish National Monument to honour the dead of the Napoleonic Wars was first suggested in 1816. The decision to have a separate monument for Scotland was highly significant culturally and politically. Some argued that the function of commemoration would be more appropriately fulfilled by a single British monument in London. However, following Edinburgh’s more overtly pro-Union stance in the later eighteenth century, it was felt by many that Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, although part of the Empire, should be able to express their individuality and national identity.
The monument is a building of very high quality and workmanship, and represents work by two of the early nineteenth century’s most eminent architects, Cockerell and Playfair. Its architectural style contributes to Edinburgh’s reputation as the ‘Athens of the North’.
On 27th August 1822, during the visit of George IV (who did not attend), there was a foundation ceremony, with construction work starting in 1826.
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