The Royal Week: The Red King, Sussexes Take Nigeria and a New Gig for The Prince of Wales

King Charles III

Artist Jonathan Yeo's oil on canvas portrait of King Charles III. Yeo, who began the portrait in 2021, had four sittings with the King and also worked from drawings and photography. Photo: His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024 via PA/Canadian Press

Each week The Royalist takes a closer look at the crown and recaps the biggest stories revolving around the Royal Family.


Picturing Charles

Queen Camilla (fourth from left) watches as King Charles III unveils an official portrait of himself by artist artist Jonathan Yeo (fifth from left) at Buckingham Palace. Charles is depicted wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Regimental Colonel in 1975. Photo: Aaron Crown/Pool/AFP via Getty Images


The commission of a royal portrait is a huge honour for an artist. Their work becomes part of history. The first portrait of King Charles III since his coronation was unveiled this week at Buckingham Palace in London. Artist Jonathon Yeo – known for his paintings of BBC presenter David Attenborough and former prime minister Tony Blair – joked about the risk of losing his head if the sovereign didn’t like the work. But it was Queen Camilla who sealed the approval, reportedly saying, “Yes, I think you’ve got him,” of the King’s likeness.

Yeo started painting the portrait, for which Charles had four sittings (or, rather, standings, as he is posed with traditional military bearing), in the summer of 2021 at Highgrove House, when Charles was still Prince of Wales.

The painting is done in bold red, and is very large, some eight feet tall. It depicts Charles wearing his scarlet Welsh Guard uniform – he has been regimental colonel of the regiment since 1975.  In typical British understatement, the BBC said of the portrait “It is very vibrant.”

King Charles
Oil on canvas portrait of King Charles III by artist Jonathan Yeo. The portrait was commissioned to celebrate the then Prince of Wales’s 50 years as a member of The Drapers’ Company in 2022.  Photo: His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024 via PA/Canadian Press


The internet, meanwhile, was not so discreet, with some inflammatory rhetoric about how the red reminded some of a tampon (a tawdry reference to the phone hacking scandals of the ’90s). More contentiously, to some it signified the spill of colonial blood. But the shockwave was short-lived.

All art is, of course, open to interpretation. Yeo himself said that his objective was to paint a personal picture, with references to classical royal portraiture themes. “On the one hand, we know they are real people with quirks and personality traits. We’ve seen that much more of them,” Yeo said, in contrast to the monarchs of yore. “On the other hand, we still want to buy into the mysticism and the fairy tale that they are different from us, that there is a bit of magic there.”

Yeo asked his subject how he would want to be remembered: the butterfly was the King’s idea to let generations down the line know that his concern for the environment was the passion of his lifetime.

This first portrait was commissioned by the British livery company Drapers’ Company. The piece is destined to be displayed at Drapers’ Hall alongside other royal portraits that the firm has collected.


Inspiring Military Vets in Nigeria


From left to right: Christopher Musa, Nigeria’s chief of defense staff; and his wife, Lilian Musa;  Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu and her husband, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos state governor; Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, at the State Governor House in Lagos, May 2024. Photo: Kola SULAIMON / AFP/Getty Images


At the invitation of Nigeria’s highest military official, Chief of Defence Staff General Christopher Musa, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, toured the West African nation this past week. The journey was madeto further the outreach of Harry’s signature cause, the Invictus Games – an athletic competition for wounded veterans – which will next take place in the summer of 2025 in Whistler, BC.

The visit, of course, brought to mind some of the official royal tours conducted by the couple. But now, as non-working royals, this trip was strictly private. Indeed, it was extra-personal for Meghan, who revealed recently that her heritage, via a genealogical test, is 43 per cent Nigerian. The people of the country welcomed her, and her combat-vet prince, warmly. 

Of course, nothing in Harry’s life has ever been truly private, and in this case he used the cameras that follow him so relentlessly to showcase the good that the Invictus program can do for those who return from wars with all manner of battle scars. 

The couple arrived in Abuja and set off to tour a mental health facility, then headed to a school where their Archewell Foundation (which had its own difficult week after the California Attorney General’s Office mistakenly declared the Montecito-based charity delinquent – a status that has now been resolved) was set to provide supplies in a cooperative effort.

Meghan visits Giants of Africa at Ilupeju Senior Grammar School in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: Andrew Esiebo/Getty Images for The Archewell Foundation/Getty Images


Meghan hosted an event showcasing women’s leadership across a number of fields, notably referring to Nigeria as “my country” in her speech. Later she was honoured by traditional elders with royal titles: hers was Ada Mazi, which translates as Daughter of the Igbo Ancestral Palace.

As with any visit Harry and Meghan make, it was received completely differently in Britain than it was in the U.S. Across the pond, the narrative held that the Sussexes were performing a mock-royal tour, complete with the duo employing royal-style sartorial tactics such as diplomatic (or “flag” dressing, as in wearing the colours of a Commonwealth country’s flag). In fact, the Duchess was able to wear the kind of clothing she could never have worn as a working royal: backless dresses with thigh-high slits. She dressed more like herself, the Meghan who lives in Montecito, than she ever did as a royal.  

Harry and Meghan arrive for a sitting volleyball match at Nigeria Unconquered, a local charity that supports wounded, injured or sick service members in Abuja on May 11, 2024. Photo: Kola SULAIMON/ AFP/Getty Images


But at the end of the day, this visit was highly beneficial for Nigeria. The state has a number of serious security risks with sectarian violence and rampant kidnappings in the north of the country. Showing that the government was able to keep a prince and princess, working or not, safe was a major coup. 

As for the Sussexes, despite the “bad news” story that hit at the end of the tour (wonder about the timing, hmmmm?), the pair managed to make their three days in West Africa into a PR and fashion triumph, on their own terms.


A New Role for William

King Charles III and Prince William, Prince of Wales (both wearing the regimental tie of the Army Air Corps) stand in front of an Apache helicopter during the official handover in which the King passes the role of Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps to the Prince of Wales and presents him with the blue beret and belt of the Army Air Corps at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop on May 13, 2024, in Stockbridge, England. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images


At the beginning of a busy for week for King Charles, as he returned to duty following his cancer treatment (he and Queen Camilla made a surprise appearance at a Buckingham Palace garden party Wednesday), the Monarch met with his heir, Prince William, for an important transfer of power. William himself is also just picking back up speed on his own royal schedule, as he has been tending to wife Catherine, who is battling cancer as well.

At the Army Flying Museum in southern England on Monday, the father-son duo were on hand for Charles to hand over the title of Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps to William. This title transfer was not news – it had been in the works since last summer – but it marked a major generational shift as Charles redistributes his honours, duties and patronages. William, who served his nation as a rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force, got to hear his father call him “a very good pilot indeed” which, in posh British-speak, is high praise. Understatement is an art in royal circles.

At the garden party, the King and Queen welcomed 4,000 guests to the lawns of the Palace. Among the invitees were Love Island stars and a judge and the hosts of Strictly Come Dancing (said to be a favourite show of Charles and Camilla).

Queen Camilla and King Charles III during The Sovereign’s Creative Industries Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 15, 2024 in London, England.  Photo: Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images


The royal couple also dazzled with spring-focused fashion: the King wore a pink waistcoast to match the Queen’s pale pink coatdress. No surprise that he wore a top hat – it was a garden party, after all! – which he cheerily doffed to the crowd as he made his way down the stairs. All in all, a clear message: the King is back.