First official portrait of King Charles since coronation unveiled

The portrait of King Charles was painted by artist Jonathan Yeo (His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/PA Wire)
The portrait of King Charles was painted by artist Jonathan Yeo (His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/PA Wire)

The King has unveiled the first completed official portrait of himself since the coronation, which includes one detail Charles suggested should be added.

The portrait, by British artist Jonathan Yeo, was commissioned in 2020 to celebrate the then Prince of Wales’s 50 years as a member of The Drapers’ Company in 2022.

The portrait, which was unveiled on Tuesday afternoon at Buckingham Palace, depicts Charles wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Regimental Colonel in 1975.

 (His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/PA Wire)
(His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/PA Wire)

The uniform of the Welsh Guards inspired the colour red, which was painted over much of the portrait, as Yeo said he felt like this portrait should have more of a “dynamic and contemporary feel”.

A butterfly is hovering over the King’s shoulder in the portrait, which was added in by Yeo at Charles’s suggestion.

After the unveiling, Yeo said he would “love to take full credit for that” but it was “actually the subject’s idea”.

During a conversation with the King, Yeo said they discussed how it would be “nice to have a narrative element which referenced his passion for nature and environment” and he spoke of how Charles “changed jobs halfway through the process” and the butterfly is a “symbol of metamorphosis” so it “tells multiple stories”.

After Yeo’s speech, the King joked “it’s nice to know I was a chrysalis when you first met me,” which was met with laughter.

The Queen said she “hopes it is going to be seen by lots of people” after the unveiling.

The canvas size – approximately eight and a half by six and a half feet when framed – was carefully considered to fit within the architecture of Drapers’ Hall and the context of the paintings it will eventually hang alongside.

Yeo had four sittings with the King, beginning when Charles was Prince of Wales in June 2021 at Highgrove, and later at Clarence House. The last sitting took place in November 2023 at Clarence House.

Yeo also worked from drawings and photographs he took of the King, allowing him to work on the portrait in his London studio between sittings.

He said: “It was a privilege and pleasure to have been commissioned by The Drapers’ Company to paint this portrait of His Majesty The King, the first to be unveiled since his coronation.

“When I started this project, His Majesty The King was still His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and much like the butterfly I’ve painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject’s role in our public life has transformed.

“I do my best to capture the life experiences etched into any individual sitter’s face. In this case, my aim was also to make reference to the traditions of royal portraiture but in a way that reflects a 21st-century monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject’s deep humanity.

“I’m unimaginably grateful for the opportunity to capture such an extraordinary and unique person, especially at the historic moment of becoming King.”