Erection date: 25/6/1887
Foundation stone of this library was laid by His Majesty Leopold II King of the Belgians, June 25th 1887.
Site: King Leopold II of Belgium (1 memorial)
E1, Mile End Road, Queen Mary University, Octagon Library
In April 1887 King Leopold II of Belgium visited and unveiled a plaque (of which we have found no image) at the Queen Mary Octagon Library commemorating his visit. The Mail says that this plaque “states that it was unveiled by the Belgian ambassador on behalf of the king” which calls into question whether the King was actually present. That was April. Then in May Queen Victoria opened the People's Palace. Leopold returned in June to unveil the foundation stone (see image) for the Library.
During 2016 a number of campaigns demanded the removal of specific statues etc. that glorified people now seen as less than exemplary, such as Cecil Rhodes. One such campaign was started by Queen Mary’s Pan-African Society calling for both these plaques to be removed. The college authorities responded quickly and in June 2016 both plaques were removed to archive.
The Telegraph quotes: “Emma Bull, director of student services at the university, told the leaders of the student protest at the time: ‘Queen Mary University has no historical ties with King Leopold, other than he visited Mile End in April 1887, and then returned to lay the Foundation Stone in June 1887. The size and prominence of these inscriptions suggested a strength of association that was never the case, and as such the decision was taken to remove both from view.’ ”
Interesting that, as far as we can tell, this item of news did not get reported until mid December 2016, 6 months after the removal.
Our photo of the plaque comes from the Telegraph, and that of the library comes from Queen Mary's hospitality site - we can see a plaque low down, over on the left but can't confirm if it's one of the plaques now removed.