I have been misled by the Melville monument in St Andrews Square. Any time I’ve remembered to go and look at it it’s been in December, and it’s always been covered up by the ice rink’s bar – and so I assumed that there was an inscription on one of the bottom panels where I couldn’t see it. But no – all the panels are blank, and the only plaque on it celebrates Robert Stevenson’s part in its building.
It’s a very towering monument, but I got a good view of the statue from the Scott monument when I climbed that a few weeks ago – I’d never expected to see him on the level!
Lord Melville is one of those people who did a great deal for the navy without ever really being part of it – he was Secretary of State for War and later First Lord of the Admiralty, and as the latter managed to greatly increase the number of ships at sea by arranging for repairs rather than complete refits – indirectly contributing to the victory at Trafalgar – and the monument was paid for by members of the navy.
He’s also an occasional character in the Master and Commander series, as First Lord and as the father of Jack’s friend Heneage Dundas (which he wasn’t, but that’s a story for another day).
But he was a controversial figure in many ways, and was also the last person to be impeached for misappropriation of public funds in Britain – although he was eventually found guilty only of negligence.