Cleopatra's Needle: A Boxego Moment in History - 12th September 1878

Sep 12, 2016

A Boxego Timeline journal entry...

Cleopatra’s Needle is an Egyptian obelisk that stands on the Victoria Embankment of the River Thames in London. Flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes, the obelisk is the real deal.  It is made of red granite, stands over twenty metres tall and is believed to be have been originally erected in Heliopolis around 1450BC. It is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs which commemorate the military victories of Ramesses II.


The needle was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. But it remained in Egypt for another nearly eighty years after the British government refused to pay to have it transported to England.

It wasn’t until 1877 that Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, the renowned anatomist and dermatologist, paid £10,000 to have it towed to London by ship on a purpose built pontoon christened the Cleopatra.


The journey nearly ended in disaster when the Cleaopatra went out of control in high seas but it eventually reached London and was erected on the 12 September 1878.

There is a time capsule concealed in the front part of the pedestal of the obelisk containing, among other things, twelve photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of cigars and tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a complete set of British coins, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a map of London and copies of ten daily newspapers.

Cleopatras Needle is one of a pair. Her sister stands proudly in Central Park in New York.

Category: History