HRH deserves better than the oily-aproned brigade

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Related Topics
TWO EYES, one on either side of the nose; a couple of lips, one above the other, with a mouth in between; one nose, placed squarely in the centre of the face; two ears, separated by one head; hair on top, chin down below, neck a little bit narrower than the face. Surely this handy cut-out-and-keep guide, free with every copy of this week's Independent on Sunday, could be sellotaped firmly to the palette of every modern painter, especially when he - or she! - is tackling the portrait of a leading member of the British Royal Family?

This week's effort at a portrait of Her Majesty by one of the beret-wearing fraternity was not, I suppose, quite as offensive as some in recent years. We must be grateful, in this day and age, that she had her full complement of limbs, that she did not have a leg coming out of her shoulder, and that her eyes were not popping out of her stomach. Nevertheless, Her Majesty's face was a terrible blur, rather as though that most gracious of ladies had been downing one too many pints of best bitter at the Old Bull and Bush the night before and had mislaid the Alka Seltzer. Is this really the best way we as a nation can think of honouring a woman who has already spent the last 10 years being driven to hell and back by The Duchess of York, The Princess of Wales, Prince Edward, Princess Michael, Princess Margaret, Major Ronald, Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all? Frankly, I think not.

The mind floods with memories of past crimes committed against our Royal Family by the oily aproned brigade. I will never forget the day I dropped in on my old friend and quaffing partner The Duke of Edinburgh way back in the early 1960s. He had recently scored some small S&A success in carriage competitions, and the horse-and-carriage association wished to commemorate his feats on their dining-room wall with a specially-commissioned portrait measuring 4ft by 6ft - just the right size to cover up the stain - sherry, shaving-foam, blood, a small amount of urine - on the far wall caused by rather too many high-spirits the previous New Year.

Alas, the dauber the association had chosen for the Duke's portrait was an up-and-coming young man who went by the doubly dubious name of Mr Lucien Freud. Of course, anyone with any knowledge of Grandfather Sigmund's work on the all-too-easy couch would have been sufficiently versed in the family's unreliable ways to sound a warning blast on the klaxon. But these were innocent days, and I was as ignorant as the next man of the tricks modern painters get up to when unleashed from their straitjackets.

As I sidled into Freud's messy studio, some sixth sense told me that things were not as they should be. For one thing, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was modelling entirely in the nude. For another, his bottom was placed full-square on a particularly vicious-looking cactus. "Philip!" I exclaimed as the full horror of the scene began to sink in, "Philip! What on earth have they done to you?"

Somewhat to my surprise, the Duke seemed to be taking it in his stride (quite literally, from where I was standing). "I'm posing for my portrait, Wallace" he explained, "Nudes with cactuses are all the rage! The Queen Mum's having one done for her next birthday, bless her!" But when the portrait was finally unveiled in a short ceremony attended by many of the leading lights of the London art-world, one's worst fears had asserted themselves: The Duke was pictured posing not only full-frontally naked sitting on an outsize cactus, but beside him the "artist" (and I use the term lightly!) had added a vast 25-stone nude woman, her birthday-suit laden with what one can only describe as the very obscenest of tattoos. The Duke was visibly displeased, and never posed naked for a painter again. In fact, for many years he was unable to enter a room that contained a cactus or, indeed, a houseplant of any sort.

There have been other instances over the past few years of the Royal Family failing foul of the Great British Painter. I shudder to recall the lack of reverence vouchsafed to HRH Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips on the occasion of their Royal Wedding Portrait by a Mr Francis Bacon. When I popped my head around the studio door on that bleak autumn morning in 1974, I was horrified to see that Captain Phillips was being asked to pose with a shoulder of pork balanced precariously on his head, whilst the Princess Royal, completely starkers save for her Wedding Coronet, was screaming her head off in a corner, surrounded by a selection of blood-stained bayonets. Small wonder that the marriage failed to survive its second decade. God willing, Her Majesty will recover from this week's monstrosity, but with what damage, one wonders, to her mental well-being?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in the new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power