Address: Victoria Embankment, London

500m from Charing Cross

300m from Embankment

Cleopatra’s Needle is the name given to each of three giant granite obelisks that are sited in London, New York and Paris. The first two form a pair and the French one is part of a pair with one that remained in Egypt.

The London and New York columns were commissioned by Thutmose III in 1450 BC and erected in Heliopolis, being later moved to Alexandria. The engravings praise Thutmose and commemorate his Sed festival. Further engravings were added around two hundred years later by Ramesses II in recognition of his military victories. The obelisks have no connection with Queen Cleopatra.

Following the removal of a Needle to France in 1801 there became much British interest in the others. In 1820 one Needle was given to King George IV by Muhammed Ali Pasha of Egypt, but the cost of transportation and the task of physically moving a 70ft high stone column proved to be too much.

It was over fifty years later when surgeon Erasmus Wilson agreed to finance the project. A special cylindrical craft was built with a keel, masts, sails and a pump. It was steered by a crew of six and named Cleopatra. It left Egypt on September 29th 1877 being towed by the steamer Olga. On reaching the Bay of Biscay, it encountered a force 8 gale. Six of Olga’s crew went to rescue the Cleopatra’s crew, but were all drowned. Their names can be seen on a plaque on the Needle. The Cleopatra was cut free and drifted, eventually being found by The Fitzmaurice and taken to Ferrol, a port at the north west tip of Spain. Salvage was agreed and she was towed to the Thames by the Anglia with both craft being welcomed home.

The Needle was erected in September 1878 on the Thames Embankment and has a time capsule of articles in its base.

This is amongst the host of landmarks in central London that can be viewed when enjoying a Thames cruise.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.