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Five things about London that simply aren't true

Written by
Katie Wignall

Like any city with a 2,000-year history, London has its fair share of misinformation and well, fake news. Here are five things about London's past that are nothing more than urban myths. 

Photo by Look Up London

Westminster lampposts aren't sponsored by Chanel

The story goes that the sixth Duke of Westminster was so utterly in love with Coco Chanel that he did the most romantic thing he could think of and plastered her symbol on every lamppost in Westminster. Although it's true that the pair did have a long affair in the 1930s, Westminster Council (who apparently receive numerous calls about this) confirmed to The Telegraph a few years ago that it’s pure myth. The entwined ‘C’ shapes in fact stand for City Council and were only installed in the 1950s. Sigh.

Photo by Look Up London

Admiral Nelson's nose isn't stored under Admiralty Arch

Heard the one about Nelson's statue having a spare nose? Apparently it's safely kept under Admiralty Arch and when soldiers are walking through, they give it a tweak for good luck. In fact, the nose appeared in 1997 without any notice and this story developed around it. The intriguing thing is that it's not the only nose lingering around. In the same year, over 30 tiny sculptures were fixed onto landmarks and public walls by the street artist Rick Buckley and there's still at least seven hiding in Soho. Happy hunting!

Photo by Michael Garnett, Time Out Flickr Pool

 The flag at Buckingham Palace isn't at half mast when the Queen's out

If you want to check whether her Madge is home, you simply check whether the Union Flag is flying at Buckingham Palace, right? Wrong. Actually, the opposite is true; a Union Flag means the monarch is away and she's only in for tea when you spot the fluttering Royal Standard (the red, yellow and blue one). The confusion came about with the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The Queen wasn't home, so – as was customary – there was no flag raised, but the grieving public wanted a royal signal of mourning. Not wanting to fly the Royal Standard at half-mast, the Union Flag was used as a replacement. This is now the common protocol for any National mourning and day to day the flagpole is never bare.

Photo by Look Up London

Churchill isn't high voltage

Winston Churchill, being the modest sort, decided himself where his iconic statue would be placed in Parliament Square. In a final bit of genius PR, he organised that an electric current would flow through the statue so no pesky pigeons would besmirch his face with last night's dinner. This has all the alarm bells of an urban myth. The fact Churchill's statue looks relatively clean is more to do with the fact no trees overhang the monument. Or maybe it's because London's birds can't balance on his shiny bald head.

Photo by Look Up London

There's no statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus

It's one of the world's most famous statues, but this London icon was never intended to depict the god of love. A memorial to the nineteenth-century philanthropist Sir Alfred Gilbert, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, it was unveiled in 1893 and generally referred to as simply the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. However, starting from the early twentieth century Londoners – thanks to his bow and wings – started calling it a variety of names including Eros (The Greek version of Cupid), Hermes (God's Messenger), Anteros (Eros' more sensible brother) and 'The Angel of Christian Charity'. 

Check out 25 things you (probably) didn't know about London.

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