“The Queen” is the answer to “who’s that on my $20 bill?” More people might feel the urge to ask the question now that the Queen’s portrait is no longer blending into the background. Yes, Queen of England is the first thing you notice when you hold the new bill in your hand, and I’m sure most Canadians know her, but I would imagine more foreigners and immigrants will start to ask why?
Alexander the Great was one of the first leaders who came to the conclusion that having the leader’s portrait on money will establish power and more importantly remind the people who’s in charge. Indeed a human figure is a very compelling image, and one would be hard pressed to forget a face instantly. Before portraits on money, symbols were used to show the hierarchy of power in a territory, but it wasn’t very effective. People need to associate a face with power and that is why Christianity is by far the most successful religion in the world. “Christ, son of God, our lord and saviour” is not just a name; he is a symbol as well as a human figure, and there lies the most important key to the religion’s attraction for the masses.
Back to the Queen and her portrait on our $20 bill, or as the English call it a “Score”. I am not a royalist mostly because I don’t see myself beneath anyone because of family blood or the amount of money they might have inherited. In short, apart from the minute chance of considering the poet laureate position if the day comes, I have no connection with the Queen; I just happen to see her portrait repeatedly in art and on my money.
I will come to the conspiracy theories a little later, but for now let’s just say that the Queen has been well represented in art from all around the world. In fact a gallery has been dedicated to portraits of Her Royal Highness inside her palace, and I want to mention a few that might tweak your interest.
The Queen was a perfect subject for Andy Warhol who endlessly searched for glitz and glamour. I mean if Andy was looking for celebrity, who could have competed with the ever rich and famous Elizabeth II? He sprinkled crushed glass onto her portraits so they would sparkle like diamonds, hence the name diamond-dusted Queens. Four of Warhol’s portraits were acquired by the Royal Collection to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Now to the heavyweight of the art world, Mr Lucian Freud who depicted her in one of the best portraits I’ve seen. Freud did not sugar coat his subject with fancy painting tricks, and in no way tried to enhance her features. In fact the Queen looks displeased and showing her age, which is to be expected as Freud was notorious for making his subjects sit for hours on end. There is nothing grand about the painting; even the size is very small. The critics and the press had a field day with Freud, and the torrents of verbiage that came out just goes to show how unashamedly stupid art critics can be.
Next is the six feet portrait done by the Canadian artist Phil Richards who has depicted the Queen with admiration one expect a schoolboy to have toward his favourite pinup actress posing in front of a Ferrari half naked. Her royal highness looks stately draped in saintly white, and confusingly very much in her prime. It has no links with the reality. It has been painted to be hung in the Royal Palace so people can ignore it as yet another tribute to money and power as they walk by.
I want to get back to my not so crazy answer as to why the Queen’s portrait has become more prominent on our $20 bill. Let me adjust my aluminium hat, take a sip from my god awful bottle of intoxicant and here we go. The scientist have predicted if emissions go on as they are, we are facing a rise in temperature of about 5 degrees by 2100, and this means that Canada will become the next destination for climate change refugees. The good old United Kingdom is in a very real danger of sinking, and if I were the royal family I would want to find a more appropriate dwelling somewhere that would be better accommodating with pleasant weather, oh I don’t know like Canada. Why look! They already have our portraits on their money. Well, God save the Queen and future King!