... they are (or, I suppose, a quite tiny percentage of them is) busily demonstrating to pull down the statue of one Cecil Rhodes, one of our great empire-builders (I don't know who would be the North American equivalent). A little more than a century ago, he gave a quite vast sum of money to Oriel College to rebuild that side (Northern) of one of its quadrangles which faces onto the High Street; and, surprise surprise, the loftiest and centralist statue on this North frontage is of Rhodes ipse (immodestly enclosed in salomonic columns and towering immodestly well above Edward VII and George V). Actually, that quadrangle was originally S Mary's Hall; it had only been finally merged into Oriel a few years before its dowdy but venerable buildings were demolished to be replaced by Rhodes's own apotheosis of Rhodes-and-the-Imperium-Brittannicum. At the time, I would have resolutely opposed this vandalism. After all, Rhodes was a figure not particularly high on the Wholesomeness Scale. But you may feel that he was probably not a lot worse than some of the dubious benefactors whose names are currently being put up all over Oxford.
I can understand why people recently removed the Rhodes statue in Capetown, and, rather longer ago, all the Lenins in Russia, and all the Queen Victorias in Ireland and India (I rather like the solution adopted at University College Cork, where they simply buried the Queen Empress under the emerald turf of that superb quadrangle which could hold its head high anywhere in Oxford). But I doubt whether many inhabitants of this city know whose statue it is, or what his significance is, or feel offence at its presence there. I wonder how many even of those protesting knew how offended they were by the statue until somebody else explained to them how upset they are. I can't quite see Removing Rhodes as being a popular mass movement engaging and uniting the divided enthusiasms of all those disparate newly-settled communities on the East of this City (it has been said that Oxford is now but the Quartier Latin of Cowley).
But the good news is that Youff have no known wish to see the removal of the eastern-most of the statues on the Rhodes Building; it is of Dr (later Cardinal) Allen, once Principal of S Mary's Hall, who faces across the road to the exuberant baroque porch of the University Church (with its niched statue of our Lady Crowned, an item which featured in the indictment upon which Archbishop Laud was executed).
Had the Armada happily succeeded, His dear Eminence, who devoted so much energy to organising it, would have been Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, and Popery would have again been triumphant. It says much for the breadth of vision and the solid historical sense of the young that they are so happy to see such a praiseworthy man continuing to be honoured.
If the campaign to remove Rhodes is successful, who should occupy his empty niche? (Blessed John Henry Newman and John Keble are already featured on the South face of the building.) Good men and true will support the nomination of another Principal of S Mary's Hall, Dr William King, for many years the exuberant, admired, and hated leader of the Jacobite Party, not only in Oxford but in England. Redeat Magnus ille Genius Brittanniae, as he rather naughtily put it. I wonder what his reward would have been, had the '45 happily succeeded.
What's that you say? Yes!!! Why not put our late Sovereign liege Lord King James III in the Rhodes niche; and his sons Kings Charles III and Henry IX in the places of Edward VII and George V! You are inspired!