A member of the protest group Fathers for Justice has been arrested after a painting of the Queen was defaced with paint in Westminster Abbey today.
Police said a 41-year-old man has been arrested and the group said it believed he was a member but insisted it was not an official protest.
The group wrote on its Twitter feed that one of its members “has written on a portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey begging for help before [Father’s Day]”.
In a statement, Fathers for Justice identified the man arrested as “dad of two Tim Haries from Doncaster”. Campaign Director Jolly Stanesby, said: “Up to four million children will be without a father this Father’s Day. Tim Haries has lost all contact with his children and felt he had nothing to lose by appealing directly to the Queen for help by spraying his plea onto her portrait.”
The Ralph Heimans portrait, which was unveiled during last month’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and was hanging in the Chapter House, was now been removed from public view, Abbey staff said.
An Abbey spokesman said: “In an incident at lunchtime today, a visitor to the Abbey sprayed paint on the Ralph Heimans portrait of the Queen presently on display in the Chapter House.
“Until work can be done to remedy the damage it will, very regrettably, not be possible to have the painting on public view.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman could not confirm the identity of the man but said: “At approximately 1230hrs today police were called to Westminster Abbey, where security guards had detained a 41 year old man for defacing a painting.
“He was arrested by police on suspicion of criminal damage and taken to a central London police station where he is in custody.”
Painted by Australian-born Mr Heimans, the oil on canvas piece measures 9ft by 11ft and depicts the monarch in the Sacrarium of Westminster Abbey, also known as the Coronation Theatre.
The painting, entitled The Coronation Theatre, Westminster Abbey: A Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was shown publicly for the first time in September by the Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
It was moved to London and put on display in the Abbey last month.
The artist, who is based in London, had a sitting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace on March 21 last year, but the scene is an imagined one, set at night in Westminster Abbey.
Mr Heimans said at the time of its first public unveiling: “Through the narrative of the portrait I wanted to produce a work of particular significance for the Diamond Jubilee.
“By representing the Queen as she reflects on this incredible milestone in her life, I wanted to explore the dynamic between her public role and the personal, emotional dimension.”
The work depicts the Queen in a moment of solitary reflection, standing at the centre circle of the Cosmati pavement, on the exact spot she was crowned.