Kate & Diana’s First Official Portraits

As you’ve no doubt read if you’re a fan of this blog, the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery this week.


The portrait was given to the National Portrait Gallery (of which Kate is Patron) through the Art Fund by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of Sir Denis Mahon. The artist, Paul Emsley, was chosen with Kate’s input.

According to the National Portrait Gallery’s website,  “the Duchess was able to give two sittings, the first at Kensington Palace and the second at the artist’s studio. Emsley’s subjects are frequently located against a dark background and emphasize, ‘the singularity and silence of the form.'” As the artist said, Kate wanted to be portrayed “naturally, her natural self, as opposed to her official self.” He also shared that Kate chose the photograph from which the artist based the portrait (which can be seen in the second photograph below).

Check out this great (and short) video of Emsley talking about how the portrait came together. It’s especially interesting to see all the photographs he used to create the portrait:


Notably, Kate chose to wear the sapphire earrings that were owned by Princess Diana (it is believed they were a gift from Charles) and were modified for Kate. Click here for more info on those. Kate also chose to wear the earrings for the Duke and Duchess’ official portrait for their 2011 tour of Canada and California:


As for the blouse, the Daily Mail reports that “The finished picture shows her in a Windsor blue pussy-bow blouse imagined by the artist because she wore different outfits for each of her sittings.” It looks to me to be quite close to the one in the picture attached to the portrait below, though:


I feel like the portrait has been unfairly criticized in the press, and in person must look quite different than it could possibly look in print or on the internet. Our London-based Royal Poster is hoping to drop by the Gallery shortly, and we’ll update the blog with her thoughts of how the portrait appears in person.

Before we move along, did anyone else notice that Carole Middleton wore the same jacket to the unveiling that she wore on the engagement day announcement? Here she is with Pippa arriving at the Gallery:


And here she is on the day of the engagement announcement:


Back to royal portraits!

It has been reported that Prince Charles commissioned a portrait of Kate as a gift for Prince William’s 30th birthday. If that is the case, it is unlikely to be seen in the public for quite some time, if ever. My hope is that William and Kate eventually release some photos of this nature in their new Kensington Palace apartment, and that we will then see the portrait in the background.


Here’s to hoping!

Before we end, let’s take  a quick look at the first official portrait of the then Lady Diana Spencer. This portait hangs at the National Portrait Gallery and it was painted by Bryan Organ in 1981 to mark Diana’s engagement to Prince Charles. Diana is depicted in the Yellow Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace. Keep in mind she was 19 at this time. Crazy.

NPG 5408; Diana, Princess of Wales by Bryan Organ

This detailed preparatory pencil sketch by the artist is stunning and shows how the portrait came to be:


Bryan Organ also painted this portrait of Prince Charles in 1980, which was the first portrait of the Prince to hang in the National Portrait Gallery. I like the relaxed nature of it, and the fact that Charles is shown wearing a sweatshirt with the Prince of Wales feathers. Of course:

NPG 5365; Prince Charles by Bryan Organ

Diana and Charles were such fans of the artist that they asked Bryan to be one of Prince Harry’s godfathers.  Here he is with Harry at his confirmation at Eton:


Bryan also did this portrait of Prince Philip, which also hangs in the National Portrait Gallery:

NPG 5698; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh by Bryan Organ

So, what do you think of Kate’s portrait?

And if you’re in the mood for more portraits, check out these posts:

Rarely Seen Portraits of Princess Diana, Part One

Rarely Seen Portraits of Princess Diana, Part Two


Categories: British Royal Family, Diana, Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cambridge


6 replies

  1. I like it. Underneath the beauty, there must be a a very grounded, thoughful woman, and I think that is the woman that William most depends upon. That’s what I see in this portrait.

  2. She’s a very lovely lady, she has a quiet strength that presses on. Her parents did a excellent job raising her. Diana also did a excellent job raising William.

  3. I think he has seen her lack of life experience behind her and unfocussed approach to the future that gives her a look of acquiescence and lifelessness. Diana’s is lovely but shows her as a young woman a little scared of everything in front of her.

  4. Personally I don’t care for the portrait – it’s too serious and ‘dark’. Whenever we see Kate she is smiling with a ray of sunshine around her. Although the two posters above each make a good point…
    Diana’s I like much more because of it’s brightness, contrast and the likeness of the woman we all know and love…
    Thank you for yet another interesting and informative post!
    Your loyal subject, Jenniffer

  5. I like the portrait. She looks wise beyond her years — which I think she may actually be — and almost like she’s sharing a private joke with the person looking at her. I don’t think it makes her look old. I don’t blame her for wanting to look serious and mature for an official portrait — if that is indeed how she asked the painter to make her look. With that tight close-up headshot, Catherine looks much stronger than Diana did in her first official portrait. Because the artist painted her full-figure surrounded by a large and very formal background, Diana only looks more vulnerable than she already was at 19. They are two incredibly beautiful women, God bless them, captured forever by some very talented painters and photographers.

  6. Catherine’s portrait is horrible. The picture reminds me of the movie The Picture of Dorian Grey. It is too dark. Her lips look clinched as if she is irritated. Her nose seems to be really unfinished for some reason. It looks fuzzy and not detailed like the eyes and mouth are. Her eyes have no sparkle in them like they do in real life. Her hair even looks dull and not at all glistening like her hair really is. The portrait is gloomy and depressing.

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