The Ugliest Royal Portraits of All Time
The Ugliest Royal Portraits of All Time

The Ugliest Royal Portraits of All Time

Alli - October 15, 2021

The Ugliest Royal Portraits of All Time
Prince Philip. Bytes Blogger

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, by Stuart Pearson Wright

Through the years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has not been the most… liked monarch. It could be argued that the royals of today are under more scrutiny than ever due to the debated necessity of their roles entirely. They’re basically symbolic figureheads at this point. But they also have a harder time winning public opinion due to social media, news media, and television. His character depiction in The Crown was not particularly flattering. Pairing those factors along with the circulating rumors of his involvement in particularly unsavory crimes – it’s no wonder he was bound to rack up a bad portrait. In 2004 Stuart Pearson Wright was given the green light by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to do his royal portrait. The Duke declined an invitation to model at the artist’s studio, an old sausage factory in east London. Instead, he insisted that Stuart came to Buckingham palace for four one-hour sessions.

The title of the resulting work is Homo sapiens, Lepidium sativum and Calliphora vomitoria, which is essentially a pretentious Latin translation of “a wise man, some cress, and a bluebottle”. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The bluebottle might seem completely random, and to a large extent it is. But it does derive from the Vanitas tradition in art, which interpolates a worm-eaten apple or falling rose or something similar to tie us to nature and remind us that all flesh is grass. The cress, according to the artist, is a reference to the Prince as seed-bearer to the royal family (good luck trying to get that image out of your head). And then there’s the chest hair. No, it’s not Philip’s torso. It belongs to an anonymous, elderly gentleman who lives in London’s Bethnal Green. Apparently, he was rather startled that his chest had ended up superimposed on the Duke of Edinburgh, but also quite flattered.

The Ugliest Royal Portraits of All Time
Queen Caroline of the United Kingdom by James Lonsdale, 1820.

Queen Caroline Looking like a Disturbing Mother Goose Character

Queen Caroline was actually a rather odd bird. She was known as unattractive and tactless during her life. According to accounts, she also rarely changed her undergarments… so add stinky to the list of unattractive attributes to Queen Caroline. It was due to her wealth that George IV, Prince of Wales, decided to settle down with her. He had accumulated a steep debt and so turned to marriage to solve his issues. Specifically, marriage to a rich woman. George, also known as “Prinny” settled his sights on the undesirable Caroline. On their wedding night, he was so drunk that he collapsed into the bedroom grate and remained there until dawn. Nevertheless, their only child Princess Charlotte was conceived, so he obviously managed to do what was required of him by his country.

Prinny found Caroline so disgusting that he refused to live with her and a year after their wedding he sent her a note tactfully informing her that she could do as she liked, as he would not be having ‘relations’ with her again. Caroline took this to mean that she could do as she wished. Rejected by her husband she went to live at Blackheath, London where her behavior became more than a little extreme. In her room, she had a clockwork Chinese figure that performed for… pleasure when wound-up. She also was given to dancing around in front of her guests in a manner that was most indelicate, exposing most of her body. Obviously, not a desirable quality for a lady and wife to the Prince of Wales. After many more crazy stories in her life, when George IV was coronated, she was barred from the Abbey… After proclaiming she was “The Queen…Open” and the pages opened the door. “I am the Queen of England,” she shouted and an official roared at the pages “Do your duty… shut the door” and the door was slammed in her face. Unfortunately, the undignified lady demanded a coronation for herself the next Monday. Which was not granted. And she met her end 19 days later.

The Ugliest Royal Portraits of All Time
Danish Royals by Thomas Kluge. The Independent

This Trippy Collage of the Danish Royal Family

In 2013, the first portrait of the Danish Royal Family in 125 years was unveiled. But nobody expected this slightly disturbing painting. Critics went back and forth, saying it looked like a mix between a horror film advertisement and a botched Photoshop attempt. Disappointing news for the artist, Thomas Kluge, who spent four years painting Queen Margrethe and her family. But this honestly doesn’t even look like a painting. The portrait evoked an earlier piece; the last portrait of the Danish Royal Family, set in the hall of Fredensborg Palace in the mid-nineteenth century. But despite the stylistic similarities between the two—not least their realism/hyper-realism—the artist never intended for it. “I was trying to take out realistic depictions because we live in a democratic world and I think our Queen and her family are now symbolic,” Kluge explained. “This is satire.”

Well, at least we can all agree there’s little realistic about the setting. The family float in purgatorial darkness before a crumbling, century-old backdrop of the former palace. It’s the stuff of nightmares, particularly with Princess Isabella (far left) clutching a doll and doing her best demon face. At least the sittings were more fun-filled with the artist playing football with Prince Christian between sessions. Still, at least the Danish Royal Family isn’t as picky as the British. Queen Margrethe at least accepted the work (though without publically commenting as to whether she liked it or not). And Margrethe knows a thing or two about art. As well as being a full-time monarch, she’s a part-time painter: the illustrator for the Danish edition of JRR Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” series and a painter in her own right, with a recent exhibition in Denmark’s Museum of National Art.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Husburgers – Phillip IV: Spain’s Late Glory or a Slow Decline?

Wikipedia – James II of Scotland

Wikipedia – The Crown (TV series)

Wikipedia – Ferdinand VII of Spain

James VI & I – Daemonologie

Historic Royal Palaces – ANNE BOLEYN

Familypedia – Frederik VII of Denmark

Number One London – The Life & Death of Queen Caroline

History – The Wildly Different Childhoods of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots