Stapleton Cotton 1st Viscount Combermere’s
equestrian statue, surrounded now
by traffic, would grace any capital.
For more than a hundred and fifty years
set before Chester Castle he rides south
towards Thomas Harrison’s Grosvenor Bridge
– once the longest single-span arch in the world –
opened by Princess Victoria.
The Viscount – soldier, politician,
diplomat – holds his feathered bicorne
at his side as if just removed in salute.
Though Combermere’s seat (once an abbey, now
a wedding venue) was a day’s ride away,
and Earl Grosvenor was the Roman city’s
capo di tutti capi, Chester’s
mercantile citizenry raised the cash
to have the statue designed and made
by Queen Victoria’s favourite sculptor,
Carlo Marochetti, whose Richard
Coeur De Lion holds his sword aloft
outside the Houses of Parliament.
However, like the Earl and the Viscount,
the merchants were knights of the chequered square,
and Stapleton Cotton – Valenciennes,
Salamanca, Bharatpur, c-in-c
West Indies then India – helped make
the British Empire safe for their dividends.