King Charles and Queen Camilla unveil Royal Albert Hall sculptures of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh made just a few miles from Bishop’s Stortford by Poppy Field
Stunning new statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, which were sculpted near Much Hadham, were unveiled at the Royal Albert Hall in London by their son King Charles and Queen Camilla, writes Helen Miller.
The King looked emotional at the unveiling ceremony on Saturday (November 11), which took place during the Royal couple’s visit to the venue for this year’s Festival of Remembrance.
The statues were sculpted in clay by artist Poppy Field at her studio at Grandey’s Place Heritage & Craft Centre in Green Tye, following a commission competition which lasted over a year.
The sculptures, which at two metres (6ft 6in) tall are larger than life, were specially designed to fill two empty niches on the exterior of the South Porch of the Royal Albert Hall. They were originally commissioned as part of the venue’s 150th anniversary celebrations, which took place in 2021.
They depict the late Queen and Prince Philip in the mid-1960s and pay tribute to the couple’s shared lifetime of service and the duke’s devotion to his wife as he gazes towards her.
Elizabeth II, shown in her late thirties, is wearing the splendid Vladimir Tiara, as well as the Delhi Durbar necklace and matching earrings. On her wrist is the Edinburgh wedding bracelet, which Philip gave as a present to his new bride in 1947. Philip is depicted in white tie, wearing a number of his orders and military medals.
“I was euphoric when I was awarded the commission. It was an extraordinary privilege and the project of a lifetime,” says Poppy.
“I had to consider the significance of the site and how to engage the public; work out how to set up the composition across both niches.
“I read as many books on the Royal couple as possible, studied photographs and film footage. I also wrote to Angela Kelly, personal assistant and senior dresser to the [late] Queen, who generously provided me with invaluable insights and guidance throughout the entire process. Seeing the figures of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip come to life as I immersed myself in the project was so exciting.”
Poppy collaborated with life models Megan Paye, from Ware, and Jack Baron, from Great Hormead near Buntingford, to help her visualise and create the form of the statues.
After she had finished the full-sized clay figures – a process that took over nine months to complete – moulds were made of both statues before being transported from Grandey’s Place to a specialist sculpture foundry, Pangolin Editions in Gloucestershire, to be cast in bronze.
The statues were approved by Queen Elizabeth in her lifetime, but the installation and unveiling were delayed until now because of her death in September 2022.
“Sculpting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip was an unbelievable honour,” says Poppy. “And being at the Royal Albert Hall during the unveiling by their son King Charles III and Queen Camilla was incredibly moving.”
Poppy, who is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Florence Academy of Art, recently transferred from East Herts to a new workspace in south London to be nearer family.
“I absolutely loved being part of the community of craftspeople at Grandey’s Place,” she says. “It was wonderful to have such a large studio at the start of my career and I really enjoyed working there in such a beautiful landscape.”
Poppy’s statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh are now on permanent public display at the Royal Albert Hall. They complement a second 150th anniversary commission by other artists depicting another famous Royal couple – Victoria and Albert – which can be found in niches on the concert hall’s North Porch.
For more on Poppy Field, visit www.poppyfieldfineart.com.