Sir William Dargie painted Queen Elizabeth’s portrait, which is also known as the Wattle Portrait, shortly after her first visit to Australia in 1954.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1954, also known as the ‘wattle painting’, by William Dargie. National Museum of Australia

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, were on their way to Australia in 1952, but the tour was cancelled, following the death of her father, King George VI.

The Queen, as a reigning monarch, first set foot on Australian soil on 3 February 1954, at Farm Cove, Sydney, followed by a gruelling eight-week schedule as she and Prince Philip visited state and territory capitals (except Darwin) and about 70 rural towns.

The Royal Couple travelled by plane, car and by special royal trains during their visit, covering over thousands of miles, with approximately 75% of the population catching a glimpse.

Sir William Dargie painted the Queen’s portrait, which is also known as the Wattle Portrait, following the royal tour.

Queen Elizabeth sat for the portrait during five sittings at Buckingham Palace in London, wearing a Norman Hartnell mimosa gold tulle dress covered with sparkling gold wattle motifs.

The Queen had worn the dress during her first evening engagement in Sydney and again at her last evening function in Perth before she left Australia.

She also wore a diamond tiara, which was a gift from her grandmother Queen Mary, and a diamond necklace, one of her wedding presents.

He created a replica, as Plan B, just in case the original was lost in transit to Australia.

William Dargie wrote the following on the back of the replica portrait:

I painted this copy of my portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II of England from my own original painting at 81 Duke Street; London W1, in November-December 1954. This copy was made to ensure the safe delivery to the Australian Commonwealth Government of at least one version of this portrait, as the painting was to be air-freighted from London to Australia. William Dargie, WA Dargie, 25.8.55. Presented to Lady Hamilton Fairley, in whose House this was painted. Dargie.

The original portrait is on display at Parliament House whilst the replica hangs in the National Museum of Australia.

Queen Elizabeth expressed her delight at the original portrait and requested a personal copy.

I painted this copy of my portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II of England from my own original painting at 81 Duke Street; London W1, in November-December 1954. This copy was made to ensure the safe delivery to the Australian Commonwealth Government of at least one version of this portrait, as the painting was to be air-freighted from London to Australia. William Dargie, WA Dargie, 25.8.55. Presented to Lady Hamilton Fairley, in whose House this was painted. Dargie.

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