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6 surprising facts about Reggie the Lion

A photo of the original Reggie the Lion in his current form at King's College London's Strand campus.

Photo by King's College London Archives.

The unexpected story of King's mascot

For King’s students, lions – in one form or another – are a familiar sight around the Strand Campus. This is all down to Reggie, who has been King’s College London’s official mascot since 1923. 

While perhaps the most visible version of Reggie can be seen on the steps of the entrance to the Great Hall, the large original 1920s Reggie statue has been lovingly restored and is being kept safely behind glass outside the KCLSU offices in the Macadam Building. 

However, Reggie’s life has not always been so peaceful. From multiple kidnappings to entertaining royalty, Reggie has gone through a lot in the last 90 years. 

Here are 6 surprising facts about King’s favourite feline.

1. He was one of the Queen's favourite childhood toys

When the Duke and Duchess of York visited King’s in 1926, they were presented with a small woolly Reggie on wheels as a toy for the infant Princess Elizabeth (now HM The Queen). Apparently the gift was a huge success. The Duchess wrote a thank you note saying: “Princess Elizabeth is quite delighted with the red lion and refuses to play with anything else.”

Man holding the toy Reggie the lion that was presented to the infant Princess Elizabeth in 1926.

This toy Reggie was presented by King's students to the Duke and Duchess of York as a gift for the infant Princess Elizabeth in 1926. Photo by King's College London Archvies.

2. He's been kidnapped multiple times

Soon after arriving at King’s, Reggie became the target of fierce intercollegiate mascotry with other colleges in the University of London, and was kidnapped on many occasions over the years. In 1967 he was stolen by persons unknown and eventually recovered from the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey, over 45 miles from his central London home. Things went from bad to worse: in the 1970s, he was once reportedly found buried upside-down in concrete in a pit near Waterloo Station.

3. He’s even been taken out of England

Reggie’s furthest known excursion took place in 1950, when he was captured by Queen Mary College students and sent north to Drumnadroicht, near Inverness. Apparently, the aim was for Reggie ‘to rival the Loch Ness Monster’. To stop this sort of thing from happening, he was eventually filled with concrete by the King’s engineers in order to make him more difficult to steal.
Black and white historical photo of students carrying Reggie the Lion in a parade.

Students carrying the original Reggie on the Embankment in London in around 1950. Photo by King's College London Archives. 

4. He’s had a lot of surgery

Due to his reckless lifestyle, Reggie has undergone a lot of surgery over the years. He lost various vital parts of his anatomy in his travels and at one point was reduced to having a vacuum-cleaner hose for a tail. Although originally made of copper, Reggie has been repaired with tin, steel, aluminium and many other materials over the years.

5. He has inspired many copycats

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which explains why so many new Reggies have emerged over the years. In 1995, King’s alumnus John Houlston sculpted a cartoon-like lion as a replacement Reggie, and there is also a silver lion which is brought out for formal dinners and graduations. There are also two small replicas, who have experienced their fair share of excitement: one of them was captured in 1999 and painted in the Guy’s colours of blue and gold.

6. He has a newspaper named after him

Reggie has yet another claim to fame: in 1992 the King’s student magazine was renamed Roar in his honour.
One of the new Reggie statues on the staircase in the entrance to the Great Hall at King's Strand campus

One of the most visible 'copycat' Reggies, on the stairway of the entrance to the Great Hall at King's Strand Campus.

Read more about Reggie's eventful history

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