National Portrait Gallery removes painting of Prince William and Prince Harry from display

The painting was made long before the rift between the royal brothers occurred

Kate Ng
Monday 05 June 2023 12:55 BST
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A painting of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sussex during happier times will no longer be shown at the National Portrait Gallery.

The gallery, which will reopen later this month after a three-year closure for refurbishment, will not display a 2010 portrait of Prince William and Prince Harry, painted by artist Nicky Philipps.

The artwork is the first official oil portrait of the brothers and shows them in their Blues and Royals uniforms when they were both serving officers in the Household Cavalry.

In the image, William stands to the right side, leaning against a wall casually while wearing the star and blue sash of the Order of the Garter, to which he was appointed to in 2008.

Meanwhile, Harry is shown sitting opposite his older brother while wearing his military uniform. The duke was later stripped of his military titles after stepping down as a working royal and moving to the US with his wife, Meghan Markle, in 2021.

In the years since the portrait was created, William and Harry have grown further apart and it is understood the pair now do not speak after the latter made a number of explosive claims about the royal family.

Both the National Portrait Gallery – whose royal patron is the Princess of Wales – and Kensington Palace have told The Times that the decision to remove the painting was not at the request of the palace.

A spokesperson for the gallery said that decisions related to what portraits go on display are “made by the gallery’s curatorial team”.

“With over 250,000 portraits in our collection, we are only able to display a small percentage within our buildings, however, as one of the world’s largest and most important collections of portraits, we regularly lend and tour our works, both nationally and internationally,” she added.

“This portrait by Nicky Philipps was included in a touring exhibition – Tudors to Windsors – which travelled between 2018 and 2021. The portrait was last displayed at the gallery between March and August 2018.”

The portrait was painted in Philipps’ home in South Kensington rather than at Clarence House, which was the original agreement. However, the artist preferred the light at her own home and requested that the princes sit for the portrait there.

Last year, she recalled how “close” the brothers were before their rift. In his and Meghan’s Netflix docuseries, released at the end of last year, Harry accused William’s team at Kensington Palace of trading and leaking stories about the Sussexes to the British press.

William and Harry arriving for the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, London (Yui Mok/PA)

Harry also claimed that William screamed at him in front of the late Queen Elizabeth II at the Sandringham summit in 2020, and that the palace “lied to protect” William over bullying accusations.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Philipps recalled the princes when she painted them and said: “They were so sweet. They were so close, those were the days.”

In another interview with the Sunday Times last year, Philipps said: “They were both utterly charming, quick-witted and great fun. Harry was a very different man back then. I suppose my painting has acquired historic significance.”

Harry is currently in the UK for his court hearing against the publisher of the Daily Mirror. The duke is set to become the first senior British royal to give evidence in court for 130 years as he prepares to testify in his lawsuit as part of the case he and more than 100 other celebrities and high-profile figures have brought against Mirror Group Newspapers.

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