A number of years ago the president of the Game Conservancy rang me and asked whether I'd be willing to paint a portrait for them to auction at their annual dinner in the Dorchester Hotel in London. I'd already painted an oil portrait of Bill Stremmel - one of their leading members - so asked who I'd be painting. "Probably Charles" he said. Assuming Charles was one of the committee members I was unprepared when I received a phone call from Buckingham Palace the following week informing me that although Prince Charles was unavailable to pose for me, Prince Philip was. "Oh, that Charles" I thought. A date was mutually agreed upon and I duly arrived at Buckingham Palace complete with pencils, sketchbook, camera and tripod. While I waited in an anti room I was able to admire the large oil painting on the wall - 'Ramsgate Sands' by W P Frith - one of my favourite painters. Soon after I was ushered into the room where The Duke of Edingurgh was to pose for me. ( Apparently the Queen and Prince Philip each have their own special rooms when posing for aritists and photographers). When he arrived I was surprised to see he was shorter than me. I suppose I'm used to seeing him standing beside the Queen - who is only 5 ' 4". I was allowed an hour, so I spent half the time sketching and the other half taking photographs. When he noticed I had a Hassleblad camera he told me that he"d accidentally dropped his Hassleblad into the sea when he was in the Galápagos Islands. Here's the sketch I made at the time.
After the session was over he showed me some of the gifts given to him by visiting dignitaries. I must say that amongst them were many weird and wonderful items. From a combination of the sketch and the twenty or so photographs I took, I eventually painted the final portrait. The Game Conservancy asked me whether Prince Philip would be prepared to sign the finished portrait, but when I asked him he said that they don't normally sign portraits as it might be assumed that they are endorsing them. However when I delivered the painting to Buckingham Palace it was returned to me a week later duly signed.
Moving on, in 2013, the Trustees of Windsor Castle were looking for a present to give to the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of his 90th birthday and had seen this portrait I made that year and decided it would make the ideal present - even though my portrait showed the Prince as a younger man.
Based on my previous session with Prince Philip I painted this large watercolour portrait against a background of three of the new stained glass windows installed in Windsor Castle after the fire there in 1992. Incidentally the Duke himself was responsible for their design. A lavish dinner was held in Windsor during which I had to present the painting and to make a short speech.
My young friend came with me to the dinner and after she shook hands with the Duke of Edinburgh remarked that he had beautiful hands.
Since we came back from Venice I've spent most of my time working on a Venetion painting. It will probably take nearly three months to complete as I plan to include St Marks Basilica with all its murals and statuettes.
Now spring has arrived and the warm weather with it we should be on the river. But my big boat is still having problems. Dean, the boatman, initially thought the problem was water mixing with the petrol. But it seems now it probably is one of the carburettors. Trouble is, as the Volvo engine is getting old now they don't have the relevant spare parts. We'll go out in the dinghy tomorrow evening if the forecast thunderstorms aren't around then. Today we had a very nice lunch on the verandah at Phyllis Court Club.
Everything in my young friend's garden is now taking off fast. Her hostas are looking good - no slug damage at all - so far. And I have my own little corner of the garden to do what I like there. So after discarding the primroses I planted marigolds and a choisia there last weekend.