Lord Botetourt Statue
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The statue known as the Lord Botetourt Statue was completed in 1773, three years after the death of Virginia’s Royal Governor Norborne Berkeley, the 4th Baron de Botetourt. Berkeley, known as Lord Botetourt, served as the colony’s governor from 1768 until his death in 1770. Lord Botetourt served as the Rector for the College of William & Mary’s Board of Visitors. During his time in Williamsburg, Botetourt began the Botetourt Medal fund to acknowledge two graduating students; the award remains one of the university’s highest honors today. The Lord Botetourt Statue was originally placed outside of the Capitol, but after being partially destroyed by vandals in 1790, was removed. After being restored in 1801, the statue was placed outside of the Wren building where it remained until it was moved to the Botetourt Gallery of the Earl Gregg Swem Library in 1966 to protect it from further whether damage and vandalism. A new version of the statue was made in 1993 to the replace the original and is now visible outside of the Wren Building.
Backstory and Context
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Two Lord Botetourt Statues stand on the grounds of the College of William & Mary in honor of Virginia Royal Governor Norborne Berkeley, the 4th Baron de Botetourt. Like his father, Botetourt served as the representative from Gloucestershire in the House of Commons until he became the Baron de Botetourt in 1764. While in the House of Lords, Botetourt supported taxation of colonists and the notable Stamp Act of 1765. After several failed ventures and lavish spending on his London home, Botetourt faced financial trouble and with the help of influential friends was named Governor of Virginia. Upon arrival in Williamsburg, Botetourt quickly became popular with his constituents through support of the College of William & Mary and popular judicial appointments.
Botetourt was a frequent visitor to the college, often attending morning prayers with the students. During his time as governor, Botetourt also served as the Rector for the college’s Board of Visitors. Botetourt made several donations to the college, but most notable was the gold Botetourt Medal which is given to two graduating students each year. The Botetourt Medal is still given today and is considered one of the university’s highest honors.
As governor, Botetourt closed the General Assembly after the House of Burgess had openly criticized the king’s taxation policies. Botetourt also secretly advised other leaders in the colony not to tolerate protests against the royal government. Despite his support of the crown, Botetourt remained popular with the people my remaining largely neutral in public. Botetourt’s time in office was brief as he died suddenly in 1770.
Shortly after his death, a statue was commissioned in his honor and was placed at the Capitol in 1773. The statue was broken into pieces sometime after the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 and local landlord Gabriel Maupin saved the head in his office. The remains of the statue were purchased by the College of William & Mary in 1797, and in 1801 the statue was restored and placed in front of the Wren Building. Outside of a brief period during the Civil War, the statue stayed outside of the Wren Building and became an icon on campus. During the twentieth century, male students were known to tip their hats when walking by the statue while female students would curtsey. The statue was moved to the Botetourt Gallery of the Earl Gregg Swem Library in 1966. Several other attempts at vandalism and many years of weather damage had led the college to relocate the statue to preserve it. A new version of the statue was made in 1993 to the replace the original and is now visible outside of the Wren Building.
Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron de Botetourt (1718-1770), Special Collections Research Center Wiki . February 27th 2017. Accessed May 19th 2020. https://scdbwiki.swem.wm.edu/wiki/index.php/Norborne_Berkeley,_4th_Baron_de_Botetourt_(1718-1770).
Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries. Lord Botetourt Statue, Constructed 1770-1773, TribeTrek. Accessed May 19th 2020. https://tribetrek.wm.edu/items/show/11?tour=1&index=10.
Tarter, Brent. Norborne Berkeley, baron de Botetourt (1717–1770), Encyclopedia Virginia. August 9th 2013. Accessed May 19th 2020. https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/berkeley_norborne_baron_de_botetourt_1717-1770#start_entry.