The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was vandalized Thursday by a man who entered London’s Westminster Abbey and allegedly defaced it with spray paint. The 41-year-old suspect was arrested and is currently being held at a London police station on charges of criminal activity. Police were called to the abbey shortly after noon and discovered the damaged portrait.
The 9 by 11-foot oil painting went on public display a month ago and was commissioned last year in honor of the queen’s Diamond Jubilee which marked 60 years on the throne. The artist was Australian-born Ralph Heimans. The oil painting is called The Coronation Theatre and shows the queen standing in Westminster Abbey in state dress, wearing the crimson velvet robe she wore for her 1953 coronation. The artist captured an imaginary night scene which softly illuminates the queen while lit candles in the background create a combination of light and shadows.
According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, the suspect was a member of the group Fathers4Justice which works with fathers who have lost parental rights due to divorce or separation. The organization said the suspect acted on his own–they did not sanction the attack, but stated that it was a “desperate plea for help.”
The abbey has taken the painting down for restoration. It could take three months to remove the purple paint sprayed on it. Last week, the queen, members of the royal family, and 2,000 guests were in Westminster Abbey for a special service in honor of her coronation 60 years ago. Her portrait was scheduled to be displayed until September.
Written by: Cynthia Collins – Guardian Correspondent