While British historians have acknowledged the Peace of Utrecht as the catalyst to Britain’s ascendancy as an imperial power, there is silence about the treaty’s pivotal role in British dominance of the Atlantic slave trade – through acquisition of the ‘Asiento de Negros’, the monopoly contract to transport African slaves to the Spanish New World Empire. This paper will discuss ‘The Blackamoor’ garden statue as a symbol of ‘The Asiento’ and later of the Atlantic slave trade as a whole.
Also known as ‘The Kneeling Slave’, ‘The Blackamoor’ is a lead figure of a male African supporting a sundial. The first of these statues was commissioned by King William III from the sculptor, John Nost I, for the Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace in 1701, the year ‘The Asiento’ was awarded to Louis XIV of France. After 1713 ‘The Blackamoor’ was among the garden statues installed at Wentworth Castle by Lord Strafford, one of Britain’s two negotiators at Utrecht, who embellished his country estate as a monument to the peace treaty.
‘The Blackamoor’ proved to be the most popular of all the lead garden statues cast in London – until the 1780s when the movement for abolition of the slave trade gathered momentum, and the image of the kneeling African was appropriated as the emblem first of abolition and then, in the 1830s, of emancipation.
Het Loo, Hampton Court, Melbourne Hall and Wentworth Castle are among the baroque gardens that are discussed.
The Colonial Legacy Conference examined the colonial and post-colonial heritage of the Treaty of Utrecht and assessed its legacy in contemporary scholarship on human trafficking, in the study of cultural memories of historical traumas, in practices of reconciliation and in popular culture.