William of Orange statue

William of Orange statue

William III statue

Undoing a life of grime

A 100th birthday clean for William III

What has been going on outside Kensington Palace?

We have cleaned and conserved the statue of William of Orange that stands outside the east front of the palace. Like many London statues, William had been regularly coated with a heavy black wax to protect the surface.

Over time, this had trapped environmental dirt and grime which masked the detail of the bronze.  The wax had broken down in places, accelerating the corrosion of the exposed areas which were green in colour. This gave William a rather mottled appearance.

How did we do it?

The statue was completely enclosed with a sheeted scaffold and conservators cleaned the entire surface by hand to remove the remaining wax. We discovered that it had previously been blasted with an abrasive, which meant that although we expected the surface to be completely green, it was in fact only green where the wax had been lost.

In the same way that you would wax your car after you have washed it, the surface of the statue was protected and enhanced with a new coating of tinted wax, to harmonise the variations in colour across the surface.

This conservation work has revealed the astonishing detail of the original craftsmanship so that we can all now appreciate this beautiful bronze. A fitting 100th birthday present for King William.

Further information

For more information on this project, including images, please download the Adobe PDF document below.

What’s the story?

‘... the Emperor William privately announced his intention of presenting a statue of William of Orange to the British nation.  It is understood that the proposed gift has been cordially accepted by his Majesty the King and that the statue will shortly be erected on a site in the West-end of London’. 
The Times, 22 January 1907

In May 1907, five statues of the most accomplished rulers of the House of Orange were erected on the terraces of the palace of the German Emperor, William II, in Berlin.

The Emperor (fancying himself something of an artist) had prepared the drawings for the statues himself. In November 1907, on a State visit to England, he presented a copy of one of the statues to his uncle King Edward VII.

The figure was of William of Orange; an appropriate choice as William was an ancestor of both King Edward VII and the emperor. He had also lived at Kensington Palace. 

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