Queen Elizabeth II, the 94-year-old monarch who is probably the most painted, photographed, filmed and sculpted human on Earth, got to see – via video – a new life-size statue of herself recently installed in Adelaide, South Australia.
Her Majesty was impressed with its likeness, judging from her amused remark to sculptor Robert Hannaford and top South Australia officials in a video conversation she had on Feb. 24 from Windsor Castle.
“It must be quite alarming to suddenly see it out of the window – you’d think, gracious, has she arrived unexpectedly!” the queen said to the artist and to Hieu Van Le and Steven Marshall, the governor and premier of South Australia respectively, who were speaking from Government House in Adelaide where the sculpture was recently installed on the grounds.
The joke, of course, is that the queen never arrives unexpectedly – anywhere. Royal trips typically involve months or even years of planning down to the last minute.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in the United Kingdom, the nonagenarian monarch gave up long-haul travel years ago, so this is an artwork she likely won’t get to see in person.
The statue – which is a first of the queen in Adelaide and only the third in the whole of Australia, a member of the Commonwealth – really does resemble the unmistakable figure of the diminutive monarch, except it’s made of what looks like bronze.
The figure is dressed in one of the queen’s signature outfits of matching coat and dress, sensible shoes, ever-present handbag over her arm, strings of pearls at her throat and one of her Mad Hatter-style hats perched on her head.
Via video, Hannaford presented her with a “maquette,” a scale model of the statue, which will be sent to her as a memento. That prompted another dry joke:
“I’m glad it’s not quite as big as the original statue!” she said.
The statue joins a huge collection of official portraits and other art works of the queen all around Britain, the Commonwealth and other parts of the globe where she is admired, after 69 years on the throne. She is now the longest serving British monarch in history and the longest serving head of state anywhere in the world.
Last July, she joined a virtual unveiling of a new portrait, by artist Miriam Escofet,made to honor her services to diplomacy, commissioned by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In 2018, she unveiled another new portrait to add to an already outsized collection, in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle.
The queen’s latest video conference call, a technology she has adapted to during the pandemic, had a non-artistic purpose, too: She was getting an update from her representatives in Australia. She is leading the royal campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated against coronavirus, as she and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, have done.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who spent 12 days in one London hospital battling an infection, was transferred to another on Monday, which specializes in cardiac care. He’s expected to remain at St Bartholomew’s Hospital for tests and treatment for a pre-existing heart condition until at least the end of this week.
The palace said the queen was briefed on the vaccination rollout to key workers in the region, the response to Covid-19, and the lifting of lockdown restrictions in South Australia.
She also got a report on the recovery from drought and bushfires in the area at the start of 2020, the palace said.
Marshall said cooperation between health services, police, government, plus the resilience of the Australian people, has helped the country’s frontline response to the pandemic.