Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
Queen Elizabeth II has become the first member of the British royal family to witness a portrait of themselves being unveiled virtually.With the UK’s government still recommending remote working and social distancing, the 94-year-old monarch joined a video call with artist Miriam Escofet, who appeared to gain approval from her royal model after revealing the artwork.”I’m glad I’ve had the chance to see it,” the Queen told Escofet on the call, some of which was posted to the Royal Family’s social media channels Saturday. “I hope I’ll see it in real life one day.”
The queen appeared pleased by Escofet’s painting, which was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Credit: Royal Family/Foreign Commonwealth Office
The portrait depicts the Queen sat on a gilded chair in a blue knee-length dress. An 18th-century painting of her great-great-great-grandmother Queen Charlotte, George III’s wife, is visible in the background, while a cup of tea can be seen on the table next to her.
The virtual unveiling was hosted by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which commissioned the artwork. In a press statement, Escofet described the assignment as a “huge honor,” adding: “I wanted the portrait to capture Her Majesty’s humanity, her radiance and her warmth, which came through so strongly in the two portrait sittings.”
Speaking to The Guardian, the artist said that the Queen seemed to react “very positively,” and had even quipped about the tea cup appearing to be empty.
“She was smiling, asking how long it took and if I had any more projects on the go after this,” Escofet told the paper, which reported that the portrait took seven months to complete. “When I explained certain elements of the painting, the tea cup, she made some amusing comments. She said, ‘but there’s no tea in the cup.'”
Britain’s ‘best diplomat’
Escofet, who was born in Spain but moved to the UK as a child, is best known for winning Britain’s most prestigious portraiture prize, the BP Portrait Award, in 2018. She won the accolade for a painting of her own mother, entitled “An Angel at my Table.”The new royal portrait is set to greet visitors at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, a new ministry formed by the merging of the FCO and the Department for International Development that will take place in September. Following the unveiling, the call’s host Sir Simon McDonald, permanent under-secretary of the FCO and head of the UK’s diplomatic service, described the event as “unique.”
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“Her Majesty The Queen is our best diplomat,” he said in a press statement. “This beautiful new portrait is a tribute to her lifetime of service and we’re glad our many visitors will see it for years to come.”
The call also served as a chance for the FCO to brief the head of state on its responses to Covid-19, including vaccine development, securing PPE for frontline workers and assisting British travelers overseas. The monarch, whose son Prince Charles contracted the virus in March, praised the department for “doing the most incredible work,” while commending its ability to redeploy resources to help fight the pandemic.
Artist Miriam Escofet and Sir Simon McDonald unveil the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, before others on the call offered updates on the UK government’s response to Covid-19. Credit: Royal Family/Foreign Commonwealth Office
“I always thought it was amazing how quickly your colleagues could adapt,” she told McDonald.
The Queen has already demonstrated her willingness to carry out her duties virtually. Earlier this month, the royal family released footage of a video call she held with members of the armed forces.