Portait of Queen by Belfast artist unveiled
The Queen has been praised for helping to set Anglo-Irish relations on a firmer footing, as she unveiled a stunning portrait of herself commissioned to mark the work of a charity promoting reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
In the remarkable setting of Crosby Hall, the home of Henry VIII's former chancellor Sir Thomas More, the Queen pulled a velvet cloth from the striking image painted by internationally acclaimed artist Colin Davidson.
The large canvas, measuring 4ft by 5ft, depicted the Queen wearing a turquoise Karl Ludwig day dress and in reflective mood, with a hint of a smile on her face.
The Belfast-born artist, who has painted leading figures such as actors Liam Neeson and Brad Pitt, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, said after the unveiling: "I jested with her she was still talking to me, which was good, and she absolutely agreed she still was talking to me - so I took quite a bit of heart from that."
Davidson, who had one 90 minute sitting with the monarch in May, added: "She commented on the scale and most sitters comment on the scale, she had no idea I was going to make her so big. I told her that's the size I usually paint and I couldn't possibly paint her any smaller."
He added: "What I hope, is that my painting in some way acknowledges the actions she has taken to advance healing in the Anglo-Irish relationship."
The guest list for the event in Chelsea, London included First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
The Queen, who was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, is joint patron of Co-operation Ireland, with Irish president Michael D Higgins, which commissioned Mr Davidson to paint the monarch.
The Queen made a historic state visit to Ireland in 2011 when her presence on Irish soil - which was the first by a British monarch since Ireland gained independence from Britain - heralded a new chapter in Anglo-Irish relations.
Mr McGuinness said: "I think she's made a tremendous contribution to support the whole process of peace and reconciliation."