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How the Cenotaph became a monument for the world

The Centotaph was unveiled 100 years ago this month
The Centotaph was unveiled 100 years ago this month Credit: Anthony Upton

It is the greatest – and most influential and most copied – war memorial in history. And yet the Cenotaph, unveiled a century ago on July 19 1919, was only ever supposed to be temporary. Sir Edwin Lutyens’s masterpiece, originally built in timber and plaster, was so immediately popular that, a year later, in 1920, a permanent copy in Portland stone took its place on Whitehall – where it stands today, the focus of commemoration rituals on Remembrance Sunday.

Why is the Cenotaph quite such a heart-stirring monument? And why was it soon copied across Britain, the world and in dozens of First World War cemeteries, from Australia to Bermuda, from Canada to Hong Kong?

The answer lies in Lutyens’s genius...

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