A new official portrait of King Charles has been unveiled as part of an £8 million government-funded initiative to place the portrait in public buildings across the UK. The scheme, announced by the Cabinet Office last year, aims to provide every public body, including local councils, courts, schools, police forces, and fire and rescue services, with a free portrait of the monarch.
Taken by photographer Hugo Burnand, the photograph showcases King Charles in full regalia inside Windsor Castle. Burnand has previously captured portraits for significant royal events, including the king and queen’s coronation, as well as their wedding photos in 2005.
Public institutions commonly display official portraits of the reigning monarch, and the government’s initiative is framed as continuing that tradition. The Cabinet Office stated that “the offering of the new official portrait of King Charles III will enable organizations across the UK to carry on that tradition.”
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden commented on the importance of the portrait, noting that it marks a new chapter in the nation’s story and serves as a reminder of the example set by the monarch as the ultimate public servant.
However, the government’s funding for this initiative, especially amid concerns about budget constraints in various sectors, has faced criticism. Republic, an anti-monarchy campaign group, referred to the initiative as a “shameful waste of money,” expressing concerns about spending on portraits during a time when local councils are facing budget challenges.
The official portrait features King Charles in his Royal Navy uniform as an admiral of the fleet, positioned in the grand corridor of Windsor Castle. Public authorities have until February 2 to apply for a free portrait, with delivery expected to occur between February and April.
The government’s announcement of the £8 million initiative to provide public bodies with a free portrait of King Charles has sparked controversy and criticism, particularly from Republic, which advocates against the monarchy. Graham Smith, the chief executive of Republic, called the initiative a “shameful waste of money,” emphasizing concerns about prioritizing such spending when public services and local councils are facing financial challenges.
The official portrait, captured by Hugo Burnand, depicts King Charles in his Royal Navy uniform as an admiral of the fleet. It aims to continue the tradition of displaying portraits of the reigning monarch in public buildings across the UK.
While the government sees this initiative as a way to honor the new monarch and celebrate a new chapter in the nation’s history, critics argue that the funds allocated for this purpose could be better directed to address pressing issues such as education, healthcare, or local government services.
The controversy also touches on broader debates about the role and cost of the monarchy in the UK. Advocates for constitutional change or the abolition of the monarchy often raise questions about the allocation of public funds to support royal activities.
As public authorities have until February 2 to apply for a free portrait, and the delivery of the portraits is expected to take place between February and April, the debate surrounding the initiative may continue to unfold, with discussions about the appropriate use of public funds and the role of the monarchy in contemporary society.