The Realms Portrait 2015
Conceptualised and Commissioned by the British Monarchists Society, Painted by Royal Portrait Painter Richard Stone, spearheaded by the High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea, and gifted to Her Majesty at St. James Palace by Her Realms.
The perplexing absence of the glittering British pomp and pageantry which is normally associated with historic Royal milestones was alarmingly void from public view on 9 September 2015, as Her Majesty became the longest reigning Sovereign in British history. It was “work as normal” for The Queen on what should have been a very special day explained Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II did not spend her day quietly at home in Balmoral Castle but opened the Scottish Borders Railway with the Duke of Edinburgh and First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, travelling by train on a landmark journey from Edinburgh to the Borders. Despite no formal Royal or governmental celebrations being held, the British Monarchists Society celebrated this momentous occasion in fine fashion with the commissioning of a highly significant portrait, which began conception in the early spring of 2013.
British Monarchists Society Founder, Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, sat with Royal Portrait Painter, Mr. Richard Stone, on a warm and sunny day one June afternoon at the Millennium Hotel Grosvenor Square, to discuss several aspects of the Society and how, Mr. Stone, as a Core Patron, could assist in bringing widespread recognition of the organisation and its works. Over a pot of tea, the conversation turned from promoting the Society and its aims to create a wider understanding of the benefits and purpose of our Monarchy, to the particular focus of how to create a grand statement and historical gesture to celebrate The Queen and her 2015 milestone, a tribute which could be enjoyed both by her people within the United Kingdom and her subjects in Realms across the seas.
As it was already the year when the nation was to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Her Majesty’s Coronation, the British Monarchists Society desired to produce a tangible mark of honour in recognition of her next important milestone – becoming the longest reigning Sovereign in British history. Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills referred to Mr. Stone’s 1992 “Colchester Portrait” of Her Majesty, created to celebrate the Borough of Colchester’s 800th Charter Anniversary in 1989, which set him to think about commissioning another Royal portrait. Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills was aware that it would be a formidable task to have this portrait funded and painted in what was already a terribly short amount of time to complete such a monumental undertaking. Mr. Stone was happy to step into the breach and paint the Royal likeness, provided that Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills obtained adequate material, permissions and moral backing. Agreements were made and Mr. Stone sent a formal letter of acceptance for the commission to the British Monarchists Society.
Time was of the essence, and Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills set his mind and feet to the task pronto, he consulted various of the Society’s Patrons and friends of distinction within Parliament, such as staunch Royal supporting MP, Andrew Rossindel in the Commons and the Baroness Knight of Collingtree DBE in the Lords, whom were best placed to support and further garner additional Parliamentary support for this immense project. Thomas pondered how he could reverentially promote The Queen’s service to Her people in an inclusive manner that would span her years of devoted duty both to her British subjects and the peoples of Her Realms. Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills and Mr. Stone had formed a solid team and now needed to go knocking on some doors. After months of meeting with Parliamentarians, receiving letters of support from various MPs and Lords, and addressing concerns as to where the portrait would be placed in the Palace of Westminster, how the upkeep would be handled, and where the funding would come from for future cleaning and conservation efforts, The Speaker of The House, John Bercow, decided not to consider the proposal pushed forward by Andrew Rossindel MP, created by Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills and Mr. Stone. Despite this celebratory project having the support of many Parliamentarians from both Houses, The Speaker declined to bring the discussion to the floor for debate and approval, thus rendering the project unable to be realised by those carrying out government business in The Queen’s name. The official reason given as to why Her Majesty’s government declined the commission, which was to use no public funding, was that Parliament had already celebrated Her Majesty, only but a few years prior for her Diamond Jubilee with the gift of a stained-glass window in Westminster Hall.
Photo: From left to right: BMS Founder – Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, Portrait Artist Richard Stone, Winnie A. Kiap, High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea. Photo taken at the High Commission of Papua New Guinea.
Upon learning of Parliaments decision to decline the commission of the British Monarchists Society on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills put a plan into action which would require an additional key figure to become involved with him and Mr. Stone to continue to make the commission a reality. Within the new idea Mace-Archer-Mills conceived, he was convinced that if done correctly, it would turn months of time and planning into a fruitful result. If the government of the United Kingdom did not want to celebrate Her Majesty, Her Realm governments would, and what better way to get them involved other than a joint gift to be presented to their Queen without any cost to one of the fifteen realms! Her Excellency, Ms. Winnie A. Kiap, High Commissioner for Her Majesty’s Government of Papua New Guinea, had shown exceptional commitment to the cause of the British Monarchists Society and was, at the time, a Core Patron of the Society along with Richard Stone. Kiap sprang immediately into Thomas’ mind as a potential partner and went on to schedule a meeting with Her Excellency. Once the date and time were secured, Ms. Kiap welcomed Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills for a cup of organic Papua New Guinea coffee at the High Commission where they discussed the possibility of her joining the portrait project, to which she would be charged with the responsibility of communicating with other Realm High Commissioners, explaining the commission and what the reason for the Realms to be collaborating on such a gift would mean.
Image: Acceptance of Portrait Commission from Richard Stone, Royal Portrait Painter.
A few days progressed and Kiap phoned Mace-Archer-Mills to arrange a further discussion about the project and to meet Mr. Stone, as he would be undertaking the painting of the commission. Recapping the previous meeting and Mr. Mace-Archer-Mills’ request that Her Excellency spearhead the project through the Realms, Mr. Stone went on to discuss his relationship with painting a majority of members of the Royal family and how the team would have to approach the Palace for permission to be granted by The Queen for the project to advance which would require sittings with her. Mace-Archer-Mills expressed that the Palace had previously declared that Her Majesty was no longer sitting for portraits due to her advanced age and the time each sitting consumes, but a project of this calibre might entice her to change her mind. Her Excellency expressed a desire to be involved but was uncertain that she was the best person to organise the incarnation of this tribute, so she asked to have a few more days’ time to make a decision to which Mace-Archer-Mills and Stone waited anxiously for her answer.
Mace-Archer-Mills continued to think long and hard about his plan and whom would be best positioned symbolically to bring this project throughout the Realm High Commissions if the High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea was to decline the invitation to become involved. In his mind, there was no replacement. The most significant reason for Papua New Guinea being head hunted for this task was that this Realm is an exceptional example of royalist devotion in the modern world. It is an anomaly in the modern age that shows constitutional monarchy still have a place and purpose as we move into the future. Papua New Guinea is one of Her Majesty’s smaller Realms but it is of brilliant importance because, uniquely, as a sovereign nation the people of Papua New Guinea, which had been a republic, chose Her Majesty as their Head of State, through the democratic will of the people, and elected to become a monarchy. They recognised that a neutral Head of State, above party politics, is the most unifying body for a divided people – in their case over a thousand disparate tribes speaking more than 800 languages. This Realm was the perfect ambassador for Mace-Archer-Mills’ plan, all he and Mr. Stone had left to do was wait to hear from the High Commissioner.
Along with the cool autumn air and the falling coloured leaves came a phone call from Her Excellency, Winnie Kiap. She asked for a second meeting, in which she outlined the amount of time she would be able to devote to the project and committed herself to a great deal of effort to making it a reality. The meeting ended with the joining of the “three musketeers”, Mace-Archer-Mills, Stone and Kiap ready to march forward for Queen and Country. Throughout the winter months and into the Spring of 2014 Her Excellency worked diligently meeting with and sending information to the Realm High Commissioners. One by one [excluding Canada and Australia] approvals came from the capitals of the Realms endorsing association and solidarity with the portrait. She consulted Mace-Archer-Mills on several points and kept both he and Stone updated accordingly. A letter was drafted, approved by the “Musketeers”, and sent via Kiap to Her Majesty’s Private Secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, where permission to undertake the portrait was asked, as well as Richard Stones’ sittings with the Queen requested. Upon receiving the project request for such an important commission, the Queen’s Courtiers brought the matter to Her Majesty’s attention and to everyone’s amazed delight she agreed to sit one more time, albeit briefly, for a final likeness. The “Realms Portrait” and vision of the British Monarchists Society was now to become a reality.
The Three Musketeers met several times a month and collaborated frequently via telephone and email. Everyone involved gave their utmost and planned carefully, paying minute attention to detail. Each brought different skills to the careful planning and meticulous execution of each component of this process. When one needed assistance, two were always there to help, guide and advise. From January 2014 until July 2015, Mr. Stone had to make the most out of the four approved sittings with Her Majesty and each was only of an hour’s duration. He was under great pressure to “deliver the goods” in such restricted circumstances. He produced a full colour oil study which was then presented privately to Mace-Archer-Mills and Kiap at the Papua New Guinea High Commission at Waterloo Place, London, before being unveiled to the High Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Realms and the Courtiers who had brought the idea forward to Her Majesty at the High Commission of Canada in Trafalgar Square, London.. Those who examined the study were both excited and taken aback by the likeness of Her Majesty, however the gathering was short lived as Mr. Stone rushed home to beaver away at the main portrait. He had to submit the completed version in less than three months of presenting the commission study. People in the know will realise that three months to complete a formal portrait is an exceptionally challenging brief for an official commission.
The historical significance of this portrait is beyond measure, as it was the first, and only, time that Her Majesty’s Realms have come together as a collective body with one tangible gift to celebrate their Sovereign. The portrait was given to The Queen as a gesture of affection and esteem from the peoples of her Realms around the globe. Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, honoured the High Commissioners of the Realm Countries, by attending a private unveilling ceremony at St James’s Palace on 27 October 2015. The six-foot-tall portrait shows Her Majesty in the Robes of State wearing the George IV Diadem. The composition of this portrait is similar to Stone’s 1992 likeness of Her Majesty which shows her in a similar position looking ahead, instead of looking back over a long and prosperous reign. The commission of the British Monarchists Society undertaken by Stone has since been accepted into the Royal Collection.
Her Excellency, Winnie E. Kiap expressed the following at the unveiling of the portrait at St. James’ Palace:
“Your Majesty. We here are your High Commissioners to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We represent the small sovereign nations within the Commonwealth Realm and of which you are Queen and Head of State. Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. Other than New Zealand which had been autonomous since 1907 and fully in control of its affairs from 1947, our other countries represented here, gained nationhood in the 19 years between 1962 and 1981. Your Majesty had graciously consented to be Queen and Head of State of each one of them.
Your Majesty takes very keen interest in each of our countries and when it had been possible, made multiple visits to our countries. It could not always have been easy for you, but you were never deterred. And our peoples have great affection for you to have taken such keen and intimate interest in each of our nations. In gratitude and with great affection, our governments, your governments, agreed a gift to mark a milestone in your journey achieved on 9 September 2015 at 5.30pm when you became the longest reigning monarch in British history… We assure you that no public fund has been expended on this gift. We present to Your Majesty this gift on behalf of our peoples, and our governments.”