This was commissioned by Lieutenant-General Sir Peter Graham as a centrepiece for the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. The sittings took place at Highgrove, the country house of HRH The Prince of Wales. True to form during my thirty years of painting the Royal Family, the weather was atrocious. To make the most of what little light was available at 9.00 am in early March, the Prince’s chair and mine had to be drawn close to each other, with barely any room for my easel between us. Our knees were practically touching.
I considered myself fortunate to be the first official appointment of the day. Fortunate because my sitter would be coming straight from breakfast, unencumbered by the baggage of problems that so often accumulate before a later appointment.
Working at white heat, with a man whose fascinating life and multiple interests have created a complex, intelligent, idiosyncratic personality, made a challenging exercise indeed. His Royal Highness paid me the honour of personally attending the unveiling of the portrait, and made an impromptu speech extolling the painting’s virtues.
For all the skill required in capturing something as elusive as personality, I had, however, failed to take note of how a regimental tie should be knotted. My faux pas was to include a yellow stripe in the knot, and the Scottish press in particular had a field day. The Prince was amused; the regiment was not. The portrait was returned to the studio for minor retouching, and the yellow stripe became black. All was forgiven, and the regiment made me an Honorary Gordon Highlander.
Limited-edition prints were made to raise funds for the Gordon Highlanders Museum.