London’s National Portrait Gallery Responds to Rumors That Kate Middleton Pressured It to Remove a Portrait of Princes William and Harry

The cozy, brotherly portrait depicts a long-ago era for Harry and William.

A double portrait painting of Prince William and Prince Harry at the National Portrait Gallery on January 6, 2010 in London, England. Photo: Anwar Hussein/WireImage.

The latest arena for the fraternal feud between Prince William and Prince Harry isn’t a memoir or an American TV show, but London’s National Portrait Gallery.

When the museum reopens to the public later this month following a multimillion-dollar renovation, it will do so without displaying a portrait of the two princes together. Nicky Phillips made the work in the halcyon days of 2010, back when the two were pals and Prince William still had a full head of hair. It casts a charming scene: two brothers lolling around a doorway, white gloves in hand.

This omission has, inevitably, prompted something of an uproar in the U.K. Following Harry and wife Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview and tell-all (sort of) Netflix docu-series, the deepening royal rift has led some corners of British media to speculate something sinister is at play with the removal of the royal painting.

The thinking is that William’s wife, Kate Middleton, one of the National Portrait Gallery’s royal patrons, has used her position of power to pressure a curatorial decision. There is no evidence for this. (It would, however, be a royal masterclass in passive-aggressive interior design.)

Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge passes a a painting of her husband Prince William and brother-in-law Prince Harry. Photo by Toby Melville/AFP via Getty Images

Nonetheless, the Times’s royal correspondent, Valentine Low, feels the work has a poignant resonance for Kate Middleton. “The painting might be regarded as a painful reminder of the rift at the heart of the royal family,” Low wrote in a column. “One that has particular resonance for the gallery’s patron, the Princess of Wales.”

For its part, the National Portrait Gallery said the Philipps painting hasn’t been on display since August 2018 (it closed for refurbishment in 2020) and is routinely mounted and unmounted like the 250,000 other works in its collection. Nope. Nothing to see here.

“We are only able to display a small percentage within our building,” the gallery said in a statement sent to Artnet News. “We regularly lend and tour our works, both nationally and internationally. This portrait by Nicky Philipps was included in a touring exhibition—Tudors to Windsors—which traveled between 2018 and 2021.”

It’s a convincing and plausible explanation, but will likely do little to quell the speculation.

 

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