The Poignant Reason Behind the New King Charles Portrait

King Charles III is seen here at Windsor Great Park during the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 3, 2024. Credit - Max Mumby—Getty Images

A new portrait of King Charles III has been unveiled in honor of Armed Forces Day on Saturday, June 29, in the U.K.

The portrait, a photograph taken by Hugo Burnand in Windsor Castle in November 2023, shows the King in full military regalia, composed of various medals, swords and decorations—a tribute to service members in both his ceremonial position of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services, and his position as Field Marshal, the highest rank in the British Army.

The holiday commemorates the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces, falling on the final Saturday of June. Originally called Veteran’s Day, the special day is often accompanied by local parades celebrating veterans.

The day is notably separate from Remembrance Sunday, when the country memorializes fallen British soldiers in all conflicts since the Great War, with ceremonies across the country on the Sunday nearest to November 11, the day Germany signed the armistice ending World War I hostilities.

This year, Queen Camilla released a heartfelt video to commemorate Armed Forces Day hailing the “determination, unrelenting efforts, and selfless loyalty” of service members “to each other and to the United Kingdom.”

She spoke of her father, Major Bruce Shand, who fought in the British Armed Forces in World War II.

In the video, an older portrait of King Charles sits atop the table beside the Queen Consort, as well as a photograph of her parents on their wedding day, and her late father’s medals. She also wore her Royal Lancers brooch, which has meaning both in her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment, and her father’s own role serving with them.

Burnard was also the official photographer for the wedding of King Charles and Queen Camilla in 2005, the wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton in 2011, and Charles’ coronation in 2023.

This portrait of the King has so far been well received, with royal fans referring to it as “regal” and “magnificent.”

This is in stark contrast to when an official portrait of Charles—the first since his coronation—was unveiled in May. The modern painting portrayed him in the bright red uniform of the Welsh Guards against a background of crimson hues, his hands laid atop a military sword.

The portrait, painted by Jonathan Yeo, celebrated Charles' 50 years as a member of the Drapers’ Company. The bright and vibrant red of the painting proved to be controversial among the public.

Some commended Yeo for breaking with tradition and being “evocative,” but the majority of voices online seemed to find the red unsettling, blood-like, and even “nightmarish.”

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