The Throne of Earthly Kings

Devonport House, King William Walk, SE10

Like so many modern sculptures around here, youth doesn’t seem to prevent obscurity when it comes to any kind of record of what something is. I’m still, for example, trying to find out about the interesting mural A Thames Tale on the wall of the power station (see “Weird Greenwich”) even though it’s not seven years old yet, and regular readers will remember the fun and games we had trying to find out who the hell Lydia Pare-Mott was.

It’s taken me ages to track down anything at all about this curious, exciting and ever-so-slightly rude-looking piece of practical Angle-Grinder Art – you can (if you actually have the nerve to open the gates and walk in) actually sit on the “throne” and pretend that you, too are some kind of evil emperor in a science fiction movie.

I tried all kinds of searches on this – even though I knew the title – The Throne of Earthly Kings – but the site where the breadcrumb trail actually began was that of the haulier firm (Fast Forward, if you’re interested) who carried it from the artist’s workshop in Brittany over to Greenwich in 2004.

It was commissioned by The Cathedral Group PLC (on whose website I did eventually find a cursory mention) who developed Devonport House into student accommodation and a hotel. They were responsible for quite a bit of art in the early naughties – remember the hundreds of naked bodies lying around the Cutty Sark in 2001? The somewhat ill-fated inflatable Dreamspace in the grounds at Devonport House by the same artist (Maurice Argis) in the same year? (I really enjoyed that – shame it all ended so sadly in Chester-le-Street…)

It takes a while to find the artist who conceived and built The Throne of Earthly Kings. Francois Hameury is hardly mentioned at all on the web – and I certainly couldn’t find anything locally – things in Greenwich become obscure almost instantly it seems. This was 2004, for God’s sake – not 1004.

I did finally find the artist’s website – if you’d like to check it out. Ignore the rather creepy photo of him with a boiled egg in his mouth, but do have a listen to the music – played by one Yorrick Trowman, who sat on the throne at its unveiling and played the violin for champagne-quaffing arty-types. If you click on ‘The Throne,’ there are photos of it being created and a video of the aforementioned opening ceremony, which clearly had some cash thrown at it. Such a shame it’s become so obscure so few years later. Luckily, once you do find his site, Hameury’s artist statement about the piece is charming.

It’s probably my favourite modern sculpture in Greenwich – not least for the engraving at its base:
May all who sit here have the courage to be true to themselves.
The world is a Kingdom for those who search inside.

Francois Hameury, 2004

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