The Daily Telegraph

‘Prince Harry wanted to stay there being painted for ages just to get out of Latin!’

JOHN WONNACOTT, THE ROYAL FAMILY: A CENTENARY PORTRAIT, 2000

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The commission came about after I came up with the idea to paint an enormous portrait of the Royal family, then approached Charles Smith at the National Portrait Gallery with it. There had only been two previous ones painted this century (Lavery, 1913; Gunn, 1950).

I started by choosing the room where I wanted to paint the portrait, because setting is very important to me. I chose the White Drawing Room, which is where Lavery had painted his portrait, and I found exactly where he had painted and set up in the same spot and decided to parallel it.

It was impossible to get all the members of the family in the same room at the same time – the only person I managed to get in the actual room was Queen Elizabeth herself, which also took a lot of persuading because she and Prince Philip usually sat in the Yellow Drawing Room, which serves as a kind of unofficial studio. The two boys [Princes William and Harry] I painted at Eton at the housemaste­r’s. Harry wanted to stay there being painted for ages to get out of Latin!

The late Queen was unbelievab­ly natural; any painter you speak to will tell you that she was never going to be a model who sits perfectly still, because she didn’t sit still for a second. It’s a relaxed environmen­t, because she knows you’re not going to come out with any ghastly stories, because that’s sort of part of the contract.

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