The Unveiling of The King’s Official Portrait at Buckingham Palace

The Unveiling of The King’s Official Portrait at Buckingham Palace

The first official painted portrait of the King since the coronation has been unveiled at Buckingham Palace. The painting was done by renowned portrait artist Jonathan Yeo, whose past subjects include Idris Elba, Cara Delevingne, Sir David Attenborough, Nicole Kidman, Malala Yousafzai, and former prime ministers Sirs David Cameron and Tony Blair. Mr Yeo, whose work has been displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts and Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, has also painted Queen Camilla and the late Prince Philip.

The King sat for Mr Yeo on four occasions between June 2021 and November 2023 at both Highgrove in Gloucestershire and Clarence House in London. Mr Yeo also worked from drawings and photographs of the monarch in order to make progress between sittings. Unveiling his work at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, he said: “It was a privilege and pleasure to have been commissioned by The Drapers’ Company to paint this portrait of His Majesty The King, the first to be unveiled since his coronation.”

The Symbolism and Evolution of the Portrait

“When I started this project, His Majesty the King was still His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and much like the butterfly I’ve painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject’s role in our public life has transformed. I do my best to capture the life experiences etched into any individual sitter’s face. In this case, my aim was also to make reference to the traditions of Royal portraiture but in a way that reflects a 21st-century monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject’s deep humanity. I’m unimaginably grateful for the opportunity to capture such an extraordinary and unique person, especially at the historic moment of becoming King.”

The King’s Return to Public Duties

In addition to attending the unveiling ceremony in London, the King carried out his first investiture in five months – and his first since his cancer diagnosis – at Windsor Castle. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was one of the 52 recipients of an investiture – and was given the Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. The King’s doctors granted permission for him to return to public duties last month.

His portrait was originally commissioned in 2020 to mark his 50 years as a member of The Draper’s Company in 2022. It shows him wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, which he was made regimental colonel of in 1975. The dimensions for the painting, which is oil on canvas, were specific to fit the architecture of the Drapers Hall where it will eventually hang. It will first go on display at the Philip Mould Gallery in London from 16 May until 14 June before moving to Drapers’ Hall at the end of August. The Drapers’ Company is a group of seven charitable trusts dedicated to helping disadvantaged people. Its links to the Royal Family date back to 1364 when it received its first charter from King Edward III.

Overall, the unveiling of the King’s official portrait at Buckingham Palace marks a significant moment in his reign, showcasing the talent of artist Jonathan Yeo and the symbolism imbued in the painting. With the King’s return to public duties, this portrait serves as a testament to his resilience and commitment to his role as monarch. The display of the portrait at various locations allows the public to appreciate the artistry and historical significance of the piece, connecting the past with the present in a meaningful way.


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