The Queen gathered her royal family back in July for a service and flypast celebrating the Royal Air Force's centenary year, and now the celebrations are continuing in an artsier fashion. Her Majesty paid a visit to the RAF Club in Piccadilly on Wednesday (Oct. 17) to open a new wing and reveal a gorgeous stained-glass window commemorating the women who have made an impact on the force. But the greatest unveiling of the day was the monarch's new portrait, commissioned to celebrate the centennial - and she couldn't help but smile when she saw it!
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The Queen watches on as a new portrait is unveiled, which was commissioned to celebrate 100 years of the RAF Club. Started in February 2018 and set in the White Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, the portrait was painted by Benjamin Sullivan – who won the BP Portrait Award in 2017. The portrait includes a number of @royalairforceuk elements: the background features a Spitfire from 253 Squadron which the artist’s grandfather, F/Lt JM Sullivan, flew over Albania during WW2. The image on the right is a portion of ‘Hurricanes in Flight‘ (1944), by Eric Ravilous.
The painting, which was set in Windsor Castle's White Drawing Room (where Princess Eugenie's royal wedding portraits were taken!), shows the Queen sitting in a golden arm chair, her hands neatly folded in her lap and her iconic Launer London handbag on the red carpet by her feet. She wears a pale blue dress and a tri-strand pearl necklace and matching earrings alongside a brooch. In a video shared by The Royal Family on Instagram, the 92-year-old watches as the red curtain is parted to reveal the portrait - then turns to the crowd and smiles.
The artist behind the portrait is Benjamin Sullivan, winner of the BP Portrait Award in 2017. “I think the idea was to capture something of the role of the monarch, but one tries to get behind that to the person,” Ben revealed of his work. “And I really like the idea her handbag was placed in front of the gilt chair. It was almost happenstance that it was placed there but it gives some idea there’s actually a person as well as a figurehead—it’s personal.” Her handbag also played a starring role in her 90th birthday portrait with her great-grandchildren, held up by a two-year-old Mia Tindall with great effort.
The caption on Instagram gives some more context to the new painting: "The portrait includes a number of @royalairforceuk elements: the background features a Spitfire from 253 Squadron which the artist’s grandfather, F/Lt JM Sullivan, flew over Albania during WW2. The image on the right is a portion of ‘Hurricanes in Flight‘ (1944), by Eric Ravilous."
Queen Elizabeth II was born eight years after the RAF was first founded in 1918 and its club formally opened in 1922. Over her decades as monarch, she's seen the organization evolve in many ways, especially where women are concerned. During her visit she was able to meet the first female fast jet pilot, Jo Salter, among other trailblazers. The Queen also had a very special moment signing the visitor's book, something her grandfather, King George V, did 96 years ago.