“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” goes the subtitle from the popular Korea TV drama “The heirs” aired in 2003. It was originally quoted from Shakespeare’s play “Henry IV.” It means that those who bear the crown should have great responsibility, in return for the power and fame that he or she earns.
Queen Elizabeth the Second, who celebrates her 68th year of her accession to the throne this year, is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Even though the Queen on the media appears to be elegant, dignified and reserved, the queen in the painting by Lucian Freud does not appear so. She appears forlorn, and her wrinkled face is just like any other elderly person. The crown on her head looks large and heavy. Freud, known as the greatest portrait painter in England, mostly painted family or friends, but he exceptionally painted a portrait of a person in authority for the first time.
The portrait was first suggested by the painter and the queen accepted the offer. She had to pose for 19 months in order to finish this small portrait, which was only 20 centimeters long. The artist, who at the time was 79 years old, painted the 75-year-old queen without her crown, as he wished to portray the queen as a person, rather than a monarch. As an individual, however, she did not look like a queen. Therefore the painter had to add another 3.5 centimeters at the top of the canvas to make a space for a crown.
When the portrait was open to the public, the public’s response was divided. Many expressed outrage that the queen was portrayed aged and unattractive, while some even said that the artist had to be prisoned at the Tower of London. On the contrary, people praised that the painter showed the monarch’s natural self and portrayed her emotions in the portrait. The queen, who is known not to express her personal feelings in public, did not show any reactions, and the painting became part of the royal family’s collection. The painter might have drawn the crown bigger and heavier than it actually is, knowing of the queen’s distress and weight of responsibility that comes with the crown.