Mara McGregor, 1982
Dimensions: 160cm x 110cm
Material: Oil on Canvas
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Hanging high above the fireplace in the Rotunda exhibition gallery is an oil portrait of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, smiling down over portraits and artefacts relating to Battle of Britain pilots, whom she affectionately referred to as her ‘fighter boys’.
The life-size portrait, which is not quite full-length, shows the Queen Mother seated on a small sofa wearing an elaborate white and gold gown. She is smiling and gazing directly at the viewer. Her extravagant dress has white chiffon hanging down from the v-shaped neckline. The majority of the dress is decorated in gold embroidery in a fan shape. This decoration stops below the knee and layers of chiffon extend to the floor. She is wearing her favoured honeycomb-patterned tiara, a circular design necklace, a diamond or silver RAF badge, a diamond bracelet and a large pearl ring on her wedding finger. Her hands are loosely held on her lap and her nails are painted a light pink. She has a luxurious white and gold fur stole draped over the right hand side of the sofa and the background behind is plain brown. The sofa itself has an ornate gold structure and a floral pattern.
The Queen Mother was a frequent visitor to RAF Bentley Priory during and after the Second World War and took a keen interest in its operations. There was a devastating fire at RAF Bentley Priory in 1979 and she campaigned for the Mansion House at Bentley Priory to be restored. This portrait by Mara McGregor was presented by the Queen Mother to the Officers’ Mess upon the reopening in 1982.
The Queen Mother’s grandson, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is patron of the Museum’s governing body, the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, and officially opened the Museum in September 2013.