Royal Family

King Charles’ First Official Portrait Breaks Royal Tradition

The painting was unveiled by artist Jonathan Yeo at Buckingham Palace.

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The first official portrait of King Charles since his Coronation has been unveiled, and it isn’t what many royalists were expecting.

Painted by artist Jonathan Yeo, who was selected by the monarch, the oil canvas painting depicts King Charles wearing his uniform of the Welsh Guards. Breaking tradition with more realistic royal portraits, the painting is covered with a bright red color with the exception of the King’s face. The painting also features a butterfly on the shoulder of Charles as he grips a sword.

Yeo adhered to some portrait traditions, like the inclusion of military attire, but wanted to create “something a bit different” by making the painting more personal. “My interest is really in figuring out who someone is and trying to get that on a canvas,” he explained, revealing that the inclusion of the butterfly holds a special meaning.

“In history of art, the butterfly symbolizes metamorphosis and rebirth,” Yeo added at the unveiling, which took place on May 14 at Buckingham Palace. The butterfly also references the monarch’s well-documented interest in environmental issues, which he “has championed most of his life and certainly long before they became a mainstream conversation,” Yeo noted.

Artist Jonathan Yeo and King Charles. WPA Pool/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The artist, who has previously painted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Malala Yousafzai, also disclosed that including the butterfly was the King’s idea.

“I said, ‘when schoolchildren are looking at this in 200 years and they’re looking at the who’s who of the monarchs, what clues can you give them?’ He said ‘what about a butterfly landing on my shoulder?’”

Royal Seal Of Approval

Yeo first began the portrait in June 2021 at the royal Highgrove residence in Gloucestershire, England, where the King had his first sitting. He would have four additional portrait sittings, each lasting roughly an hour.

Charles was “initially mildly surprised” by the painting after getting a first look in its “half done state.” The final sitting was held at Clarence House in November 2023, and was attended by the King’s wife, Queen Camilla, who approved of Yeo’s work. “Yes, you’ve got him,” she reportedly said of the portrait.