The Daily Telegraph
‘She walked past – that was the only time I got’
ALASTAIR BARFORD, HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II (ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS PORTRAIT), 2015
When I was younger, I got a scholarship to study in Florence from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (named after the Queen Mother), which funded training for all sorts of British craftsmen.
Towards the end of my third year, I received an email from the Illustrated London News which said there was an opportunity to paint Queen Elizabeth. I almost thought it was spam, because as artists we get so many fake emails offering these sorts of opportunities – but it was real, and they said I had a day to decide whether or not I would do it. It’s not an opportunity you can say no to, so I said yes. The Illustrated London News had done a publication called The Record Reign in the Victorian era when Queen Victoria became the longest-serving monarch and they wanted to do the same thing in 2015 when Queen Elizabeth claimed that record, plus they wanted to commission an artist.
A week after I said yes, I was at Windsor Castle. It was for the Garter ceremony, and that was the only time I had with the late Queen, as she walked past. I had a photographer from the Illustrated London News with me and I was making sketches but I didn’t have much time.
The whole thing was very rushed, and quite extraordinary. It was my first commission – I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I’m happy that I managed to get it done.