Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The obelisks in London and New York are a pair; the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains.
Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. An earlier reference states Queen Cleopatra brought the London obelisk from Heliopolis to Alexandria shortly before the time of Christ for the purpose of decorating a new temple but it was never erected and lay buried in sand on the shore until presented to the British nation in 1819.
The London and New York needles were originally made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III. The Paris needle dates to the reign of the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II, and was the first to be moved and re-erected. The New York needle was the first to acquire the French nickname, "L'aiguille de Cléopâtre", when it stood in Alexandria.
It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. In 1819, Muhammad Ali Pasha gave Britain the obelisk as a gift. However, Britain's prime minister at the time, Robert Jenkinson, hesitated on having it brought to the country due to shipping expenses. It remained in Alexandria until October 1877 when its transport to London was funded by William James Erasmus Wilson.
New York needle
The New York City needle was erected in Central Park, just west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on 22 January 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by judge Elbert E. Farman, the then-United States Consul General at Cairo, as a gift from the Khedive, Muhammad Ali Pasha, for the United States remaining a friendly neutral as the European powers – France and Britain – maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian Government.
The Paris needle is in the Place de la Concorde. The obelisk is decorated with hieroglyphs exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. Along with its twin (still in situ), it once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The ruler of Egypt and Sudan, Muhammad Ali, presented the New York needle to France in 1828, but it was exchanged in 1830 with the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk. King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde in 1833 near the spot where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been guillotined in 1793. Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was difficult – on the pedestal are diagrams explaining the machinery used for its transportation. The red granite column rises 23 metres high, including the base, and weighs over 250 tonnes. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, in 1998 the government of France added a goldleafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk. The obelisk is flanked by two fountains constructed at the time of its erection on the Place.
The Paris obelisk was sometimes mistakenly described as "l'Aiguille de Cléopâtre", but the London and New York obelisks pair was referred to as Cleopatra's Needles as early as 1821, suggesting the nickname came from the pair located in Alexandria. However, the Paris obelisk is more often referred to as "the Luxor Obelisk".
New York's Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park
- Lucas, Paul (1724). Voyage du sieur Paul Lucas, fait en MDCCXIV, &c. par ordre de Louis XIV dans la Turquie, l'Asie. Sourie, Palestine, haute & Basse Egypte, &c. 2. Rouen. pp. 24–25.
- "Egyptians are upset by Britain's disregard for a gift". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
- "Obelisk". The Official Website of Central Park NYC. Central Park Conservancy. February 12, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- in an 1877 British guide New Guide to Modern French Conversation, Or The Student's and Tourist's French Vade-mecum: Containing a Comprehensive Vocabulary and Phrases and Dialogues on a Variety of Useful Or Interesting Topics, p. 148, by Alain Auguste Victor de Fivas, 28th edition, Published by C. Lockwood & Co., 1877 
- in "Cleopatra's Needle". The Westmorland gazette, etc (Kendal, England), Saturday, 15 December 1821; pg. 1; Issue 187.
- L'Obélisque de Louqsor transporté a Paris : notice historique, descriptive, et archælogique sur ce monument, 1833, p.22 
- D'Alton, Martina (1993). The New York obelisk, or, How Cleopatra's Needle came to New York and what happened when it got here. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0-87099-680-0.
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