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Culture & Press news – Embassy 40

Keeping it in the family

For the Diamond Jubilee special, Elizabeth Stewart embarked on a trail to find works of art on display in ambassadorial residences that reveal the blood ties that bind the Queen to a host of nations

Two of the world’s most iconic portraits greet visitors to the Dutch Residence. Andy Warhol’s Reigning Queens, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and her fifth cousin Queen Elizabeth II, preside watchfully over proceedings in the drawing room.

These two original prints belong to the very last print-portrait series created by the avant garde artist in 1985 (two years before his untimely death). It also includes Queen Margarethe II of Denmark (incidentally a third cousin of Britain’s Queen) and the Queen of Swaziland.

Fittingly, Warhol used a photograph taken during Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 to create the portrait of Elizabeth and refashioned it with bold colours. Thirty-five years later, the image has been reproduced thousands of times for the Diamond Jubilee so it’s perhaps prescient that the Royal Edition of the series was covered in diamond dust.

But the portraits are worth far more than diamonds: an early trial proof of the Elizabeth II portrait will go on sale at Bonhams in July and is expected to fetch at least £40,000-£60,000.

As mentioned earlier, Queen Elizabeth is also closely related to the Danish Royal Family. Visitors to the sleek, modern Arne Jacobsen Residence of the Danish Ambassador in Sloane Street are struck by a sketch in the lobby by famous Danish artist Laurits Tuxen, who travelled widely, painting the royal families of Europe, including the wedding and coronation of Tsar Nicholas II as well as King Christian IX of Denmark with his family.

This particular scene dates back to 1902 and the auspicious event the artist was capturing was the coronation of Queen Alexandra, consort to Britain’s King Edward the VII, daughter of Christian IX of Denmark and great grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II.

The sketch shows the Archbishop of York William Dalrymple Maclaglan placing a crown on the new queen consort’s head (the crown can now be seen in the National Army Museum and Tuxen’s completed painting is part of the Royal Collection and can be viewed at www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/404487).

And it is through Queen Alexandra’s youngest daughter, Maud, that Queen Elizabeth is also closely connected to the Norwegian Royal family. Maud’s husband, Prince Carl of Denmark, was elected King Haakon VII of Norway after the union of Norway, Denmark and Sweden was dissolved in 1905 and a plebiscite voted to retain the monarchy.

A graceful statue of Queen Maud greets visitors to the Norwegian Residence in Palace Green. The statue in bronze was sculptured by Norwegian artist Ada Madsen and is her second of Queen Maud. The first statue, erected in 1959, stands in the gardens surrounding the Royal Palace in Oslo.

Unveiled by Queen Maud’s grandson, King Harald of Norway, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, the King said he hoped it would be “a symbol of enduring friendship between Norway and the United Kingdom.”

The unveiling took place during the State Visit in 2005 which commemorated the centenary of Norway’s independence.

Ties between the two royal families have been especially close since Britain gave refuge to King Haakon following the Nazi invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940. A Norwegian government-in-exile was set up and 10 Palace Green was transformed into the King’s official residence where many cabinet meetings were convened between 1940-45 at a dining room table which is still used by the Residence today.

The King also broadcast messages from London and became a symbol of anti-Nazi resistance. A Blue Plaque commemorating these events was unveiled by King Harald’s sister, Princess Astrid Mrs Ferner, and is still clearly visible on the wall of the Residence.

The Belgian Residence, meanwhile, is full of royal links – including a portrait of an almost forgotten English princess who would have been Queen. Princess Charlotte of Wales was George IV’s only legitimate heir but sadly died in childbirth. Why this portrait has pride of place in the Belgian Residence is that she was the wife of Leopold I, who was later elected King of the Belgians in 1831 (naturally with enthusiastic backing of Britain).

Leopold I had a direct impact on the history of European royalty because as Queen Victoria’s maternal uncle, it was he who played cupid, matching his nephew, Albert, to Queen Victoria, who went on to become “the grandmother of Europe” – and so linking Queen Elizabeth to many of the great European royal families.

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Left: Andy Warhol’s iconic Reigning Queens greet
visitors to the Dutch Residence

Above: Norway’s Queen Maud also has close family ties to Queen Elizabeth II


Right: Charlotte – the princess who would have been Britain’s queen


Centre: King Leopold I of the Belgians was Queen Victoria’s uncle


Laurtis Tuxen’s Coronation of Queen Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth’s great grand mother, is on display at the Danish Residence


A plaque to Norway’s King Haakon VII on the Norwegian Residence

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